Volume 35 | May 2020
Histaminergic neurons are confined to the tuberomammillary nucleus (TMN) in the posterior hypothalamus and provide the sole source of neuronal histamine to the brain. These neurons are identified based on the expression of histidine decarboxylase (HDC), the enzyme required to convert l-histidine into histamine. HDC neurons form a crucial part of the ascending arousal system and have well-established roles in regulating sleep and wakefulness.
Nucleotide metabolism is a critical pathway that generates purine and pyrimidine molecules for DNA replication, RNA synthesis, and cellular bioenergetics. Increased nucleotide metabolism supports uncontrolled growth of tumors and is a hallmark of cancer. Agents inhibiting synthesis and incorporation of nucleotides in DNA are widely used as chemotherapeutics to reduce tumor growth, cause DNA damage, and induce cell death. Thus, the research on nucleotide metabolism in cancer is primarily focused on its role in cell proliferation. However, in addition to proliferation, the role of purine molecules is established as ligands for purinergic signals. However, so far, the role of the pyrimidines has not been discussed beyond cell growth.
Scope of the review
In this review we present the key evidence from recent pivotal studies supporting the notion of a non-proliferative role for pyrimidine metabolism (PyM) in cancer, with a special focus on its effect on differentiation in cancers from different origins.
In leukemic cells, the pyrimidine catabolism induces terminal differentiation toward monocytic lineage to check the aberrant cell proliferation, whereas in some solid tumors (e.g., triple negative breast cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma), catalytic degradation of pyrimidines maintains the mesenchymal-like state driven by epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). This review further broadens this concept to understand the effect of PyM on metastasis and, ultimately, delivers a rationale to investigate the involvement of the pyrimidine molecules as oncometabolites. Overall, understanding the non-proliferative role of PyM in cancer will lead to improvement of the existing antimetabolites and to development of new therapeutic options.
Metabolic dysfunction in polycystic ovary syndrome: Pathogenic role of androgen excess and potential therapeutic strategies
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrinopathy among reproductive age women. Although its cardinal manifestations include hyperandrogenism, oligo/anovulation, and/or polycystic ovarian morphology, PCOS women often display also notable metabolic comorbidities. An array of pathogenic mechanisms have been implicated in the etiology of this heterogeneous endocrine disorder; hyperandrogenism at various developmental periods is proposed as a major driver of the metabolic and reproductive perturbations associated with PCOS. However, the current understanding of the pathophysiology of PCOS-associated metabolic disease is incomplete, and therapeutic strategies used to manage this syndrome's metabolic complications remain limited.
Scope of review
This study is a systematic review of the potential etiopathogenic mechanisms of metabolic dysfunction frequently associated with PCOS, with special emphasis on the metabolic impact of androgen excess on different metabolic tissues and the brain. We also briefly summarize the therapeutic approaches currently available to manage metabolic perturbations linked to PCOS, highlighting current weaknesses and future directions.
Androgen excess plays a prominent role in the development of metabolic disturbances associated with PCOS, with a discernible impact on key peripheral metabolic tissues, including the adipose, liver, pancreas, and muscle, and very prominently the brain, contributing to the constellation of metabolic complications of PCOS, from obesity to insulin resistance. However, the current understanding of the pathogenic roles of hyperandrogenism in metabolic dysfunction of PCOS and the underlying mechanisms remain largely incomplete. In addition, the development of more efficient, even personalized therapeutic strategies for the metabolic management of PCOS patients persists as an unmet need that will certainly benefit from a better comprehension of the molecular basis of this heterogeneous syndrome.
ApoA-1 improves glucose tolerance by increasing glucose uptake into heart and skeletal muscle independently of AMPKα2
Acute administration of the main protein component of high-density lipoprotein, apolipoprotein A-I (ApoA-1), improves glucose uptake in skeletal muscle. The molecular mechanisms mediating this are not known, but in muscle cell cultures, ApoA-1 failed to increase glucose uptake when infected with a dominant-negative AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) virus. We therefore investigated whether AMPK is necessary for ApoA-1-stimulated glucose uptake in intact heart and skeletal muscle in vivo.
The effect of injection with recombinant human ApoA-1 (rApoA-1) on glucose tolerance, glucose-stimulated insulin secretion, and glucose uptake into skeletal and heart muscle with and without block of insulin secretion by injection of epinephrine (0.1 mg/kg) and propranolol (5 mg/kg), were investigated in 8 weeks high-fat diet-fed (60E%) wild-type and AMPKα2 kinase-dead mice in the overnight-fasted state. In addition, the effect of rApoA-1 on glucose uptake in isolated skeletal muscle ex vivo was studied.
rApoA-1 lowered plasma glucose concentration by 1.7 mmol/l within 3 h (6.1 vs 4.4 mmol/l; p < 0.001). Three hours after rApoA-1 injection, glucose tolerance during a 40-min glucose tolerance test (GTT) was improved compared to control (area under the curve (AUC) reduced by 45%, p < 0.001). This was accompanied by an increased glucose clearance into skeletal (+110%; p < 0.001) and heart muscle (+100%; p < 0.001) and an increase in glucose-stimulated insulin secretion 20 min after glucose injection (+180%; p < 0.001). When insulin secretion was blocked during a GTT, rApoA-1 still enhanced glucose tolerance (AUC lowered by 20% compared to control; p < 0.001) and increased glucose clearance into skeletal (+50%; p < 0.05) and heart muscle (+270%; p < 0.001). These improvements occurred to a similar extent in both wild-type and AMPKα2 kinase-dead mice and thus independently of AMPKα2 activity in skeletal- and heart muscle. Interestingly, rApoA-1 failed to increase glucose uptake in isolated skeletal muscles ex vivo.
In conclusion, ApoA-1 stimulates in vivo glucose disposal into skeletal and heart muscle independently of AMPKα2. The observation that ApoA-1 fails to increase glucose uptake in isolated muscle ex vivo suggests that additional systemic effects are required.
Beta cell identity changes with mild hyperglycemia: Implications for function, growth, and vulnerability
As diabetes develops, marked reductions of insulin secretion are associated with very modest elevations of glucose. We wondered if these glucose changes disrupt beta cell differentiation enough to account for the altered function.
Rats were subjected to 90% partial pancreatectomies and those with only mild glucose elevations 4 weeks or 10 weeks after surgery had major alterations of gene expression in their islets as determined by RNAseq.
Changes associated with glucose toxicity demonstrated that many of the critical genes responsible for insulin secretion were downregulated while the expression of normally suppressed genes increased. Also, there were marked changes in genes associated with replication, aging, senescence, stress, inflammation, and increased expression of genes controlling both class I and II MHC antigens.
These findings suggest that mild glucose elevations in the early stages of diabetes lead to phenotypic changes that adversely affect beta cell function, growth, and vulnerability.
Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is characterized by a robust pro-inflammatory component at both hepatic and systemic levels together with a disease-specific gut microbiome signature. Protein tyrosine phosphatase 1 B (PTP1B) plays distinct roles in non-immune and immune cells, in the latter inhibiting pro-inflammatory signaling cascades. In this study, we have explored the role of PTP1B in the composition of gut microbiota and gut barrier dynamics in methionine and choline-deficient (MCD) diet-induced NASH in mice.
Gut features and barrier permeability were characterized in wild-type (PTP1B WT) and PTP1B-deficient knockout (PTP1B KO) mice fed a chow or methionine/choline-deficient (MCD) diet for 4 weeks. The impact of inflammation was studied in intestinal epithelial and enteroendocrine cells. The secretion of GLP-1 was evaluated in primary colonic cultures and plasma of mice.
We found that a shift in the gut microbiota shape, disruption of gut barrier function, higher levels of serum bile acids, and decreased circulating glucagon-like peptide (GLP)-1 are features during NASH. Surprisingly, despite the pro-inflammatory phenotype of global PTP1B-deficient mice, they were partly protected against the alterations in gut microbiota composition during NASH and presented better gut barrier integrity and less permeability under this pathological condition. These effects concurred with higher colonic mucosal inflammation, decreased serum bile acids, and protection against the decrease in circulating GLP-1 levels during NASH compared with their WT counterparts together with increased expression of GLP-2-sensitive genes in the gut. At the molecular level, stimulation of enteroendocrine STC-1 cells with a pro-inflammatory conditioned medium (CM) from lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated macrophages triggered pro-inflammatory signaling cascades that were further exacerbated by a PTP1B inhibitor. Likewise, the pro-inflammatory CM induced GLP-1 secretion in primary colonic cultures, an effect augmented by PTP1B inhibition.
Altogether our results have unraveled a potential role of PTP1B in the gut–liver axis during NASH, likely mediated by increased sensitivity to GLPs, with potential therapeutic value.
In the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes, development of insulin resistance triggers an increase in pancreatic β-cell insulin secretion capacity and β-cell number. Failure of this compensatory mechanism is caused by a dedifferentiation of β-cells, which leads to insufficient insulin secretion and diabetic hyperglycemia. The β-cell factors that normally protect against dedifferentiation remain poorly defined. Here, through a systems biology approach, we identify the transcription factor Klf6 as a regulator of β-cell adaptation to metabolic stress.
We used a β-cell specific Klf6 knockout mouse model to investigate whether Klf6may be a potential regulator of β-cell adaptation to a metabolic stress.
We show that inactivation of Klf6 in β-cells blunts their proliferation induced by the insulin resistance of pregnancy, high-fat high-sucrose feeding, and insulin receptor antagonism. Transcriptomic analysis showed that Klf6 controls the expression of β-cell proliferation genes and, in the presence of insulin resistance, it prevents the down-expression of genes controlling mature β-cell identity and the induction of disallowed genes that impair insulin secretion. Its expression also limits the transdifferentiation of β-cells into α-cells.
Our study identifies a new transcription factor that protects β-cells against dedifferentiation, and which may be targeted to prevent diabetes development.
The steep rise in the prevalence of obesity and its related metabolic syndrome have become a major worldwide health concerns. Melanocortin peptides from hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (Arc) POMC neurons induce satiety to limit food intake. Consequently, Arc Pomc-deficient mice (ArcPomc−/−) exhibit hyperphagia and obesity. Previous studies demonstrated that the circulating levels of adiponectin, a protein abundantly produced and secreted by fat cells, negatively correlate with obesity in both rodents and humans. However, we found that ArcPomc−/− mice have increased circulating adiponectin levels despite obesity. Therefore, we investigated the physiological function and underlying mechanisms of hypothalamic POMC in regulating systemic adiponectin levels.
Circulating adiponectin was measured in obese ArcPomc−/− mice at ages 4–52 weeks. To determine whether increased adiponectin was a direct result of ArcPomcdeficiency or a secondary effect of obesity, we examined plasma adiponectin levels in calorie-restricted mice with or without a history of obesity and in ArcPomc−/−mice before and after genetic restoration of Pomc expression in the hypothalamus. To delineate the mechanisms causing increased adiponectin in ArcPomc−/− mice, we determined sympathetic outflow to adipose tissue by assessing epinephrine, norepinephrine, and tyrosine hydroxylase protein levels and measured the circulating adiponectin in the mice after acute norepinephrine or propranolol treatments. In addition, adiponectin mRNA and protein levels were measured in discrete adipose tissue depots to ascertain which fat depots contributed the most to the high level of adiponectin in the ArcPomc−/− mice. Finally, we generated compound Adiopoq−/−:ArcPomc−/− mice and compared their growth, body composition, and glucose homeostasis to the individual knockout mouse strains and their wild-type controls.
Obese ArcPomc−/− female mice had unexpectedly increased plasma adiponectin compared to wild-type siblings at all ages greater than 8 weeks. Despite chronic calorie restriction to achieve normal body weights, higher adiponectin levels persisted in the ArcPomc−/− female mice. Genetic restoration of Pomc expression in the Arc or acute treatment of the ArcPomc−/− female mice with melanotan II reduced adiponectin levels to control littermate values. The ArcPomc−/− mice had defective thermogenesis and decreased epinephrine, norepinephrine, and tyrosine hydroxylase protein levels in their fat pads, indicating reduced sympathetic outflow to adipose tissue. Injections of norepinephrine into the ArcPomc−/− female mice reduced circulating adiponectin levels, whereas injections of propranolol significantly increased adiponectin levels. Despite the beneficial effects of adiponectin on metabolism, the deletion of adiponectin alleles in the ArcPomc−/−mice did not exacerbate their metabolic abnormalities.
In summary, to the best of our knowledge, this study provides the first evidence that despite obesity, the ArcPomc−/− mouse model has high circulating adiponectin levels, which demonstrated that increased fat mass is not necessarily correlated with hypoadiponectinemia. Our investigation also found a previously unknown physiological pathway connecting POMC neurons via the sympathetic nervous system to circulating adiponectin, thereby shedding light on the biological regulation of adiponectin.
Melanocortin regulation of histaminergic neurons via perifornical lateral hypothalamic melanocortin 4 receptors
Histaminergic neurons of the tuberomammillary nucleus (TMN) are wake-promoting and contribute to the regulation of energy homeostasis. Evidence indicates that melanocortin 4 receptors (MC4R) are expressed within the TMN. However, whether the melanocortin system influences the activity and function of TMN neurons expressing histidine decarboxylase (HDC), the enzyme required for histamine synthesis, remains undefined.
We utilized Hdc-Cre mice in combination with whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology and in vivo chemogenetic techniques to determine whether HDC neurons receive metabolically relevant information via the melanocortin system.
We found that subsets of HDC-expressing neurons were excited by melanotan II (MTII), a non-selective melanocortin receptor agonist. Use of melanocortin receptor selective agonists (THIQ, [D-Trp8]-γ-MSH) and inhibitors of synaptic transmission (TTX, CNQX, AP5) indicated that the effect was mediated specifically by MC4Rs and involved a glutamatergic dependent presynaptic mechanism. MTII enhanced evoked excitatory post-synaptic currents (EPSCs) originating from electrical stimulation of the perifornical lateral hypothalamic area (PeFLH), supportive of melanocortin effects on the glutamatergic PeFLH projection to the TMN. Finally, in vivo chemogenetic inhibition of HDC neurons strikingly enhanced the anorexigenic effects of intracerebroventricular administration of MTII, suggesting that MC4R activation of histaminergic neurons may restrain the anorexigenic effects of melanocortin system activation.
These experiments identify a functional interaction between the melanocortin and histaminergic systems and suggest that HDC neurons act naturally to restrain the anorexigenic effect of melanocortin system activation. These findings may have implications for the control of arousal and metabolic homeostasis, especially in the context of obesity, in which both processes are subjected to alterations.