Volume 56 | February 2022
Growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15), formerly known as macrophage inhibitory cytokine-1 (MIC-1), is a cytokine expressed and secreted in response to a variety of stimuli as part of stress and disease processes. Clinical studies demonstrate that GDF15 levels serve as a biological marker for prognosis and diagnosis of certain types of cancers and chronic hyperglycemia. Importantly, exogenous GDF15 administration and increased endogenous GDF15 production (e.g., tumor-derived) suppress feeding and body weight primarily via the induction of nausea, emesis, and malaise.
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease characterized by impaired immune tolerance to β-cell antigens and progressive destruction of insulin-producing β-cells. Animal models have provided valuable insights for understanding the etiology and pathogenesis of this disease, but they fall short of reflecting the extensive heterogeneity of the disease in humans, which is contributed by various combinations of risk gene alleles and unique environmental factors. Collectively, these factors have been used to define subgroups of patients, termed endotypes, with distinct predominating disease characteristics.
Scope of review
Here, we review the gaps filled by these models in understanding the intricate involvement and regulation of the immune system in human T1D pathogenesis. We describe the various models developed so far and the scientific questions that have been addressed using them. Finally, we discuss the limitations of these models, primarily ascribed to hosting a human immune system (HIS) in a xenogeneic recipient, and what remains to be done to improve their physiological relevance.
To understand the role of genetic and environmental factors or evaluate immune-modifying therapies in humans, it is critical to develop and apply models in which human cells can be manipulated and their functions studied under conditions that recapitulate as closely as possible the physiological conditions of the human body. While microphysiological systems and living tissue slices provide some of these conditions, HIS mice enable more extensive analyses using in vivo systems.
Multiple genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified SNPs in the 8q24 locus near TRIB1 that are significantly associated with plasma lipids and other markers of cardiometabolic health, and prior studies have revealed the roles of hepatic and myeloid Trib1 in plasma lipid regulation and atherosclerosis. The same 8q24 SNPs are additionally associated with plasma adiponectin levels in humans, implicating TRIB1 in adipocyte biology. Here, we hypothesize that TRIB1 in adipose tissue regulates plasma adiponectin, lipids, and metabolic health.
We investigate the metabolic phenotype of adipocyte-specific Trib1 knockout mice (Trib1_ASKO) fed on chow and high-fat diet (HFD). Through secretomics of adipose tissue explants and RNA-seq of adipocytes and livers from these mice, we further investigate the mechanism of TRIB1 in adipose tissue.
Trib1_ASKO mice have an improved metabolic phenotype with increased plasma adiponectin levels, improved glucose tolerance, and decreased plasma lipids. Trib1_ASKO adipocytes have increased adiponectin production and secretion independent of the known TRIB1 function of regulating proteasomal degradation. RNA-seq analysis of adipocytes and livers from Trib1_ASKO mice indicates that alterations in adipocyte function underlie the observed plasma lipid changes. Adipose tissue explant secretomics further reveals that Trib1_ASKO adipose tissue has decreased ANGPTL4 production, and we demonstrate an accompanying increase in the lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity that likely underlies the triglyceride phenotype.
This study shows that adipocyte Trib1 regulates multiple aspects of metabolic health, confirming previously observed genetic associations in humans and shedding light on the further mechanisms by which TRIB1 regulates plasma lipids and metabolic health.
Genome-wide association studies identified ORMDL3 as an obesity-related gene, and its expression was negatively correlated with body mass index. However, the precise biological roles of ORMDL3 in obesity and lipid metabolism remain uncharacterized. Here, we investigate the function of ORMDL3 in adipose tissue thermogenesis and high fat diet (HFD)-induced insulin resistance.
Ormdl3-deficient (Ormdl3−/−) mice were employed to delineate the function of ORMDL3 in brown adipose tissue (BAT) thermogenesis and white adipose tissue (WAT) browning. Glucose and lipid homeostasis in Ormdl3−/− mice fed a HFD were assessed. The lipid composition in adipose tissue was evaluated by mass spectrometry. Primary adipocytes in culture were used to determine the mechanism by which ORMDL3 regulates white adipose browning.
BAT thermogenesis and WAT browning were significantly impaired in Ormdl3−/− mice upon cold exposure or administration with the β3 adrenergic agonist. In addition, compared to WT mice, Ormdl3−/− mice displayed increased weight gain and insulin resistance in response to HFD. The induction of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), a marker of thermogenesis, was attenuated in primary adipocytes derived from Ormdl3−/− mice. Importantly, ceramide levels were elevated in the adipose tissue of Ormdl3−/− mice. In addition, the reduction in thermogenesis and increase in body weight caused by Ormdl3 deficiency could be rescued by inhibiting the production of ceramides.
Our findings suggest that ORMDL3 contributes to the regulation of BAT thermogenesis, WAT browning, and insulin resistance.
High-fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity impairs clearance of cholesterol through the Reverse Cholesterol Transport (RCT) pathway, with downregulation in hepatic expression of cholesterol and bile acid transporters, namely ABCG5/8 and ABCB11, and reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol efflux capacity (CEC). In the current study, we hypothesized that the development of hepatosteatosis, secondary to adipose-tissue dysfunction, contributes to obesity-impaired RCT and that such effects could be mitigated using the anti-inflammatory drug sodium salicylate (NaS).
Materials and methods
C57BL/6J mice, fed HFD ± NaS or low-fat diet (LFD) for 24 weeks, underwent glucose and insulin tolerance testing. The 3H-cholesterol movement from macrophage-to-feces was assessed in vivo. HDL-CEC was determined ex vivo. Cytokine secretion from adipose-derived stromal vascular fraction (SVF) cells was measured ex vivo. Liver and HDL proteins were determined by mass spectrometry and analyzed using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis.
NaS delayed HFD-induced weight gain, abrogated priming of pro-IL-1β in SVFs, attenuated insulin resistance, and prevented steatohepatitis (ectopic fat accumulation in the liver). Prevention of hepatosteatosis coincided with increased expression of PPAR-alpha/beta-oxidation proteins with NaS and reduced expression of LXR/RXR-induced proteins including apolipoproteins. The latter effects were mirrored within the HDL proteome in circulation. Despite remarkable protection shown against steatosis, HFD-induced hypercholesterolemia and repression of the liver-to-bile cholesterol transporter, ABCG5/8, could not be rescued with NaS.
Discussions and conclusions
The cardiometabolic health benefits of NaS may be attributed to the reprogramming of hepatic metabolic pathways to increase fatty acid utilization in the settings of nutritional overabundance. Reduced hepatic cholesterol levels, coupled with reduced LXR/RXR-induced proteins, may underlie the lack of rescue of ABCG5/8 expression with NaS. This remarkable protection against HFD-induced hepatosteatosis did not translate to improvements in cholesterol homeostasis.
Intra-tumoral expression of the serine hydrolase carboxylesterase 2 (CES2) contributes to the activation of the pro-drug irinotecan in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Given other potential roles of CES2, we assessed its regulation, downstream effects, and contribution to tumor development in PDAC.
Association between the mRNA expression of CES2 in pancreatic tumors and overall survival was assessed using The Cancer Genome Atlas. Cell viability, clonogenic, and anchorage-independent growth assays as well as an orthotopic mouse model of PDAC were used to evaluate the biological relevance of CES2 in pancreatic cancer. CES2-driven metabolic changes were determined by untargeted and targeted metabolomic analyses.
Elevated tumoral CES2 mRNA expression was a statistically significant predictor of poor overall survival in PDAC patients. Knockdown of CES2 in PDAC cells reduced cell viability, clonogenic capacity, and anchorage-independent growth in vitro and attenuated tumor growth in an orthotopic mouse model of PDAC. Mechanistically, CES2 was found to promote the catabolism of phospholipidsresulting in HNF4α activation through a soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH)-dependent pathway. Targeting of CES2 via siRNA or small molecule inhibitors attenuated HNF4α protein expression and reduced gene expression of classical/progenitor markers and increased basal-like markers. Targeting of the CES2-sEH-HNF4α axis using small molecule inhibitors of CES2 or sEH reduced cell viability.
We establish a novel regulatory loop between CES2 and HNF4α to sustain the progenitor subtype and promote PDAC progression and highlight the potential utility of CES2 or sEH inhibitors for the treatment of PDAC as part of non-irinotecan-containing regimens.
Growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15) is known to play a role in feeding, nausea, and body weight, with action through the GFRAL-RET receptor complex in the area postrema (AP) and nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS). To further elucidate the underlying cell type-specific molecular mechanisms downstream of GDF15 signaling, we used a single nuclei RNA sequencing (snRNAseq) approach to profile AP and NTS cellular subtype-specific transcriptomes after systemic GDF15 treatment.
AP and NTS micropunches were used for snRNAseq from Sprague Dawley rats 6 h following GDF15 or saline injection, and Seurat was used to identify cellular subtypes and cell type-specific alterations in gene expression that were due to the direct and secondary effects of systemic GDF15 treatment.
Using the transcriptome profile of ∼35,000 individual AP/NTS nuclei, we identified 19 transcriptomically distinct cellular subtypes, including a single population Gfral and Ret positive excitatory neurons, representing the primary site of action for GDF15. A total of ∼600 cell type-specific differential expression events were identified in neurons and glia, including the identification of transcriptome alterations specific to the direct effects of GDF15 in the Gfral-Retpositive excitatory neurons and shared transcriptome alterations across neuronal and glial cell types. Downstream analyses identified shared and cell type-specific alterations in signaling pathways and upstream regulatory mechanisms of the observed transcriptome alterations.
These data provide a considerable advance in our understanding of AP and NTS cell type-specific molecular mechanisms associated with GDF15 signaling. The identified cellular subtype-specific regulatory mechanism and signaling pathways likely represent important targets for future pharmacotherapies.