It is well recognized that the agouti/melanocortin system is an important regulator of body weight homeostasis. Given that agouti is expressed in human adipose tissue and that the ectopic expression of agouti in adipose tissue results in moderately obese mice, the link between agouti expression in human adipose tissue and obesity/type 2 diabetes was investigated. Although there was no apparent relationship between agouti mRNA levels and BMI, agouti mRNA levels were significantly elevated in subjects with type 2 diabetes. The regulation of agouti in cultured human adipocytes revealed that insulin did not regulate agouti mRNA, whereas dexamethasone treatment potently increased the levels of agouti mRNA. Experiments with cultured human preadipocytes and with cells obtained from transgenic mice that overexpress agouti demonstrated that melanocortin receptor (MCR) signaling in adipose tissue can regulate both preadipocyte proliferation and differentiation. Taken together, these results reveal that agouti can regulate adipogenesis at several levels and suggest that there are functional consequences of elevated agouti levels in human adipose tissue. The influence of MCR signaling on adipogenesis combined with the well-established role of MCR signaling in the hypothalamus suggest that adipogenesis is coordinately regulated with food intake and energy expenditure. (+info)
(26/158) Collagen metabolism is a novel target of the neuropeptide alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone.
Suppression of collagen synthesis is a major therapeutic goal in the treatment of fibrotic disorders. We show here that alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH), a neuropeptide well known for its pigment-inducing capacity, modulates collagen synthesis and deposition. Alpha-MSH in vitro suppresses the synthesis of collagen types I, III, and V and down-regulates the secretion of procollagen type I C-terminal peptide (PICP) in human dermal fibroblasts treated with the fibrogenic cytokine transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1). Alpha-MSH did not interfere with TGF-beta1 signaling, because TGF-beta1-induced expression of collagen mRNA was not affected, implying a posttranscriptional mechanism. Human dermal fibroblasts in vitro express a high affinity binding site for MSH, which was identified by reverse transcription PCR and immunofluorescence analysis as the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC-1R). Immunohistochemical studies on normal adult human skin confirmed MC-1R expression in distinct dermal fibroblastic cells. The MC-1R on fibroblasts appears to be functionally relevant because alpha-MSH increased the amount of intracellular cAMP, and coincubation with a synthetic peptide corresponding to the human Agouti signaling protein abrogated the inhibition of TGF-beta1-induced PICP secretion by alpha-MSH. To assess the in vivo relevance of these findings, a mouse model was used in which dermal fibrosis was induced by repetitive intracutaneous injections with TGF-beta1. The inductive activity of TGF-beta1 on collagen deposition and the number of dermal cells immunoreactive for vimentin and alpha-smooth muscle actin was significantly suppressed by injection of alpha-MSH. Melanocortins such as alpha-MSH may therefore represent a novel class of modulators with potential usefulness for the treatment of fibrotic disorders. (+info)
(27/158) Dorsoventral patterning of the mouse coat by Tbx15.
Many members of the animal kingdom display coat or skin color differences along their dorsoventral axis. To determine the mechanisms that control regional differences in pigmentation, we have studied how a classical mouse mutation, droopy ear (de(H)), affects dorsoventral skin characteristics, especially those under control of the Agouti gene. Mice carrying the Agouti allele black-and-tan (a(t)) normally have a sharp boundary between dorsal black hair and yellow ventral hair; the de(H) mutation raises the pigmentation boundary, producing an apparent dorsal-to-ventral transformation. We identify a 216 kb deletion in de(H) that removes all but the first exon of the Tbx15 gene, whose embryonic expression in developing mesenchyme correlates with pigmentary and skeletal malformations observed in de(H)/de(H) animals. Construction of a targeted allele of Tbx15 confirmed that the de(H) phenotype was caused by Tbx15 loss of function. Early embryonic expression of Tbx15 in dorsal mesenchyme is complementary to Agouti expression in ventral mesenchyme; in the absence of Tbx15, expression of Agouti in both embryos and postnatal animals is displaced dorsally. Transplantation experiments demonstrate that positional identity of the skin with regard to dorsoventral pigmentation differences is acquired by E12.5, which is shortly after early embryonic expression of Tbx15. Fate-mapping studies show that the dorsoventral pigmentation boundary is not in register with a previously identified dermal cell lineage boundary, but rather with the limb dorsoventral boundary. Embryonic expression of Tbx15 in dorsolateral mesenchyme provides an instructional cue required to establish the future positional identity of dorsal dermis. These findings represent a novel role for T-box gene action in embryonic development, identify a previously unappreciated aspect of dorsoventral patterning that is widely represented in furred mammals, and provide insight into the mechanisms that underlie region-specific differences in body morphology. (+info)
(28/158) Dnmt1 expression in pre- and postimplantation embryogenesis and the maintenance of IAP silencing.
The methylation of intracisternal A-type particle (IAP) sequences is maintained during mouse embryogenesis. Methylation suppresses IAP expression and the potential for mutagenesis by retrotransposition, but it is not clear how methylation of these elements is maintained during the embryonic stages when the bulk of the genome is being demethylated. It has been suggested that the high levels of DNA methyltransferase-1 (Dnmt1) present during cleavage could be important for keeping IAPs methylated. To test this hypothesis, we combined mutant alleles of Dnmt1 with an agouti allele (A(iapy)), which provided a coat color readout for the methylation status of the IAP insertion in the agouti locus. We found that reduction in Dnmt1 levels directly impacted methylation at this locus, leading to stable transcriptional activation of the agouti gene in the adult. Specifically, the short maternal Dnmt1 protein was important in maintaining methylation at the A(iapy) locus in cleavage embryos, whereas the longer Dnmt1 isoform found in somatic cells was important in maintaining IAP methylation during the postimplantation stage. These results underscore the importance of maintaining proper maintenance of methylation patterns during gestation and suggest that interference with this process may stably affect gene expression patterns in the adult and may have profound phenotypic consequences. (+info)
(29/158) Liver-specific expression of the agouti gene in transgenic mice promotes liver carcinogenesis in the absence of obesity and diabetes.
BACKGROUND: The agouti protein is a paracrine factor that is normally present in the skin of many species of mammals. Agouti regulates the switch between black and yellow hair pigmentation by signalling through the melanocortin 1 receptor (Mc1r) on melanocytes. Lethal yellow (Ay) and viable yellow (Avy) are dominant regulatory mutations in the mouse agouti gene that cause the wild-type protein to be produced at abnormally high levels throughout the body. Mice harboring these mutations exhibit a pleiotropic syndrome characterized by yellow coat color, obesity, hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, and increased susceptibility to hyperplasia and carcinogenesis in numerous tissues, including the liver. The goal of this research was to determine if ectopic expression of the agouti gene in the liver alone is sufficient to recapitulate any aspect of this syndrome. For this purpose, we generated lines of transgenic mice expressing high levels of agouti in the liver under the regulatory control of the albumin promoter. Expression levels of the agouti transgene in the liver were quantified by Northern blot analysis. Functional agouti protein in the liver of transgenic mice was assayed by its ability to inhibit binding of the alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone (alphaMSH) to the Mc1r. Body weight, plasma insulin and blood glucose levels were analyzed in control and transgenic mice. Control and transgenic male mice were given a single intraperitoneal injection (10 mg/kg) of the hepatocellular carcinogen, diethylnitrosamine (DEN), at 15 days of age. Mice were euthanized at 36 or 40 weeks after DEN injection and the number of tumors per liver and total liver weights were recorded. RESULTS: The albumin-agouti transgene was expressed at high levels in the livers of mice and produced a functional agouti protein. Albumin-agouti transgenic mice had normal body weights and normal levels of blood glucose and plasma insulin, but responded to chemical initiation of the liver with an increased number of liver tumors compared to non-transgenic control mice. CONCLUSIONS: The data demonstrate that liver-specific expression of the agouti gene is not sufficient to induce obesity or diabetes, but, in the absence of these factors, agouti continues to promote hepatocellular carcinogenesis. (+info)
(30/158) Past, present and future strategies to study the genetics of body weight regulation.
Genetic advances have made remarkable progress towards our understanding of body weight regulation. Much of our current knowledge has come from the cloning and characterisation of the genes responsible for obesity syndromes in the mouse, and the identification of homologous mutations causing rare forms of obesity in humans. Gene targeting experiments in mice have been instrumental in confirming the importance of many genes in the aetiology of obesity, and the existence of a fundamental physiological pathway that controls energy balance is becoming clear. The genetic determinants that underlie common forms of human obesity are largely polygenic, with most genes producing small effects. Thus, elucidating the many genetic determinants of obesity is a current challenge for modern geneticists. Despite the inherent difficulties, progress has been made through linkage/association studies and a genetic map of quantitative trait loci for human obesity is beginning to emerge. Obesity research is now very much in a transition period. Not so long ago, access to high throughput screening, as well as microarray and proteomic techniques, was prohibitively expensive and available only to the few. In recent years, these technologies have become more accessible to the larger scientific community and, in this paper, we will discuss how such technological advances are likely to drive the next wave of progress in obesity research. For example, large-scale mutagenesis screens in rodents coupled with high throughput screening are likely to emerge as important technologies for identifying genes previously unexpected to be involved in body weight regulation. Furthermore, applications of microarray and proteomic techniques will further refine our understanding of currently known peptides as well as identify novel pathways and molecules which are involved in energy homeostasis. (+info)
(31/158) Agouti yellow mutation increases adrenal response to ACTH in mice.
OBJECTIVE: Agouti protein (AP) and agouti-related protein with a similar sequence and action are endogenous antagonists of melanocortin receptors, implicated in the control of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Dominant mutation of the agouti gene (agouti yellow (A(y))) in heterozygous A(y)/a mice leads to ectopic overexpression of AP and produces an obese phenotype. The existing data on the HPA function in A(y)/a-mice are equivocal; therefore, the present study aimed to assess HPA function in 3-month-old male C57Bl/6J mice of two agouti genotypes: A(y)/a (ectopic AP overexpression) and a/a (absence of AP). DESIGN AND METHODS: In order to evaluate the HPA function, activating (15-min restriction, ACTH-induced corticosterone production in vitro) and inhibiting (i.p. injection of dexamethasone, 0.02 microg/g body weight) stimuli were employed. To estimate the effect of obesity on some HPA functions, A(y)/a males were subdivided into obese and non-obese groups. RESULTS: Basal plasma concentrations of ACTH and corticosterone; basal corticosterone production in vitro; and feedback inhibition of resting corticosterone levels by dexamethasone were similar in A(y)/a- and a/a-mice. Restraint-induced plasma corticosterone was greater in obese and non-obese A(y)/a-mice than in a/a-mice, whereas restraint-induced plasma ACTH levels were similar. Adrenal cell responses to ACTH (10(-13)-10(-10) M) were higher in obese and non-obese A(y)/a-mice than in a/a-mice. Dexamethasone, injected 3 h prior to stress, inhibited stress-induced corticosterone levels by a significantly greater amount in A(y)/a-mice than in a/a-mice. CONCLUSIONS: AP may have both stimulating and inhibiting influences on the HPA axis. AP overproduction increased the response of the HPA to short-restraint stress due to increased adrenal responsiveness to ACTH; this result was not effected by obesity development. (+info)
(32/158) Calcium and dairy products inhibit weight and fat regain during ad libitum consumption following energy restriction in Ap2-agouti transgenic mice.
We demonstrated previously that dietary calcium suppression of calcitriol reduces adipocyte Ca(2+), suppresses lipogenesis, and increases lipid utilization during energy restriction. Notably, dairy calcium sources exert markedly greater effects. To determine the effects of dietary calcium and dairy products on energy partitioning during subsequent refeeding, we induced obesity in aP2-agouti transgenic mice with a high-fat/high-sucrose diet, then restricted energy intake from a high-calcium (1.3%) diet for 6 wk to induce fat loss, and then provided free access to a low-calcium (0.4%) diet or to high-calcium (1.3%) diets that utilized either calcium-fortified foods or dairy products (milk or yogurt) for 6 wk. Refeeding the low-calcium diet caused the regain of all weight and fat, whereas all high-calcium diets reduced fat gain by 55% (P < 0.01). All high-calcium diets stimulated adipose tissue uncoupling protein (UCP)2 and skeletal muscle UCP3 expression (P < 0.001) and slightly increased core temperature (P = 0.136), but only the dairy-based diets elicited a marked (>10-fold, P < 0.001) increase in skeletal muscle peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha expression. All 3 high-calcium diets produced significant increases in lipolysis, decreases in fatty acid synthase expression and activity, and reduced fat regain (P < 0.03), but the 2 dairy-containing high-calcium diets exerted significantly greater effects on regain (P < 0.01). Thus, high-Ca diets elicit a shift in energy partitioning and reduction of weight gain during refeeding, with dairy Ca sources exerting markedly greater effects. (+info)