Posts Tagged ‘metabolic syndrome’

Diet and Diabetes

Writer and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP 


Bile acid signaling in lipid metabolism: Metabolomic and lipidomic analysis of lipid and bile acid markers linked to anti-obesity and anti-diabetes in mice

Yunpeng Qi, Changtao Jiang, Jie Cheng, Kristopher W. Krausz, et al.

Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1851 (2015) 19–29

Bile acid synthesis is the major pathway for catabolism of cholesterol. Cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase (CYP7A1) is the rate-limiting enzyme in the bile acid biosynthetic pathway in the liver and plays an important role in regulating lipid, glucose and energy metabolism. Transgenic mice overexpressing CYP7A1 (CYP7A1-tg mice) were resistant to high fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity, fatty liver, and diabetes. However the mechanism of resistance to HFD-induced obesity of CYP7A1-tg mice has not been determined. In this study, metabolomic and lipidomic profiles of CYP7A1-tg mice were analyzed to explore the metabolic alterations in CYP7A1-tg mice that govern the protection against obesity and insulin resistance by using ultra-performance liquid chromatography-coupled with electrospray ionization quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry combined with multivariate analyses. Lipidomics analysis identified seven lipid markers including lysophosphatidylcholines, phosphatidylcholines, sphingomyelins and ceramides that were significantly decreased in serum of HFD-fed CYP7A1-tgmice.Metabolomics analysis identified 13metabolites in bile acid synthesis including taurochenodeoxy-cholic acid, taurodeoxycholic acid, tauroursodeoxycholic acid, taurocholic acid, and tauro-β-muricholic acid (T-β-MCA) that differed between CYP7A1-tg and wild-type mice. Notably, T-β-MCA, an antagonist of the farnesoid X receptor (FXR) was significantly increased in intestine of CYP7A1-tg mice. This study suggests that reducing 12α-hydroxylated bile acids and increasing intestinal T-β-MCA may reduce high fat diet-induced increase of phospholipids, sphingomyelins and ceramides, and ameliorate diabetes and obesity. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Linking transcription to physiology in lipidomics.

Bile acid synthesis is the major pathway for catabolism of cholesterol to bile acids. In the liver, cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase (CYP7A1) is the first and rate-limiting enzyme of the bile acid biosynthetic pathway producing two primary bile acids, cholic acid (CA, 3α, 7α, 12α-OH) and chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA, 3α, 7α-OH) in humans. Sterol-12α hydroxylase (CYP8B1) catalyzes the synthesis of CA. In mice, CDCA is converted to α-muricholic acid (α-MCA: 3α, 6β, 7α-OH) and β-muricholic acid (β-MCA: 3α, 6β, 7β-OH). Bile acids are conjugated to taurine or glycine, secreted into the bile and stored in the gallbladder. After a meal, bile acids are released into the gastrointestinal tract. In the intestine, conjugated bile acids are first de-conjugated and then 7α-dehydroxylase activity in the gut flora converts CA to deoxycholic acid (DCA: 3α, 12α), and CDCA to lithocholic acid (LCA: 3α), two major secondary bile acids in humans.

In humans, most bile acids are glycine or taurine-conjugated and CA, CDCA and DCA are the most abundant bile acids. In mice, most bile acids are taurine-conjugated and CA and α- and β-MCAs are the most abundant bile acids. Bile acids facilitate absorption of dietary fats, steroids, and lipid soluble vitamins into enterocytes and are transported via portal circulation to the liver for metabolism and distribution to other tissues and organs. About 95% of bile acids are reabsorbed in the ileum and transported to the liver to inhibit CYP7A1 and bile acid synthesis. Enterohepatic circulation of bile acids provides a negative feedback mechanism to maintain bile acid homeostasis. Alteration of bile acid synthesis, secretion and transport causes cholestatic liver diseases, gallstone diseases, fatty liver disease, diabetes and obesity.

 Bile acid synthesis


Bile acid synthesis. In the classic bile acid synthesis pathway, cholesterol is converted to cholic acid (CA, 3α, 7α, 12α) and chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA, 3α, 7α). CYP7A1 is the rate-limiting enzyme and CYP8B1 catalyzes the synthesis of CA. In mouse liver, CDCA is converted to α-muricholic acid (α-MCA, 3α, 6β, 7α) and β-MCA (3α, 6β, 7β). Most bile acids in mice are taurine (T)-conjugated and secreted into bile. In the intestine, gut bacteria de-conjugate bile acids and then remove the 7α-hydroxyl group from CA and CDCA to form secondary bile acids deoxycholic acid (DCA, 3α, 12α) and lithocholic acid (LCA, 3α), respectively. T-α-MCA and T-β-MCA are converted to T-hyodeoxycholic acid (THDCA, 3α, 6α), T-ursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA, 3α, 7β), T-hyocholic acid (THCA, 3α, 6α, 7α) and T-murideoxycholic acid (TMDCA, 3α, 6β). These secondary bile acids are reabsorbed and circulated to liver to contribute to the bile acid pool. Secondary bile acids ω-MCA (3α, 6α, 7β) and LCA are excreted into feces.

Two FXR-dependent mechanisms are known to inhibit bile acid synthesis.  In the liver bile acid-activated FXR induces a negative receptor small heterodimer partner (SHP) to inhibit trans-activation activity of hepatic nuclear factor 4α(HNF4α) and liver receptor homologue-1 (LRH-1) that bind to the bile acid response element in the CYP7A1 and CYP8B1 gene promoters (Fig. 2, Pathway 1). In the intestine, bile acids activate FXR to induce fibroblast growth factor (mouse FGF15, or human FGF19), which activates hepatic FGF receptor 4 (FGFR4) and cJun N-terminal kinase 1/2 (JNK1/2) and extracellular-regulated kinase (ERK1/2) signaling of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways to inhibit trans-activation of CYP7A1/CYP8B1 gene by HNF4α (Pathway 2). Several FXR-independent cell-signaling pathways have been reported and are shown as Pathway 3 (Fig. 2). Conjugated bile acids are known to activate several protein kinase Cs (PKC) and growth factor receptors, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), and insulin receptor (IR) signaling to inhibit CYP7A1/CYP8B1 and bile acid synthesis via activating the ERK1/2, p38 and JNK1/2 pathways.


Bile acid signaling pathways. Bile acids activate FXR, TGR5 and cell signaling pathways to inhibit CYP7A1 and CYP8B1 gene transcription.

1) Hepatic FXR/SHP pathway: bile acid activated-FXR induces SHP, which inhibits HNF4α and LRH-1 trans-activation of CYP7A1 and CYP8B1 gene transcription in hepatocytes. Bile acid response element binds HNF4α and LRH-1.

2) Intestinal FXR/FGF19/FGFR4 pathway: in the intestine, FXR induces FGF15 (mouse)/FGF19 (human), which is secreted into portal circulation to activate FGF receptor 4 (FGFR4) in hepatocytes. FGFR4 signaling stimulates JNK1/2 and ERK1/2 pathways of MAPK signaling to inhibit CYP7A1 gene transcription by phosphorylation and inhibition of HNF4α binding activity.

3) FXR-independent signaling pathways: Conjugated bile acids activate PKCs,which activate the MAPK pathways to inhibit CYP7A1. Bile acids also activate insulin receptor (IR) signaling IRS/PI3K/PDK1/AKT, possibly via activation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling, MAPKs (MEK, MEKK), to inhibit CYP7A1 gene transcription. The secondary bile acid TLCA activates TGR5 signaling in Kupffer cells. TGR5 signaling may regulate CYP7A1 by an unknown mechanism. TCA activates sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) receptor 2 (S1PR2), which may activate AKT and ERK1/2 to inhibit CYP7A1. S1P kinase 1 (Sphk1) phosphorylates sphingosine (Sph) to S-1-P, which activates S1PR2. On the other hand, nuclear SphK2 interacts with and inhibits histone deacetylase (HDAC1/2) and may induce CYP7A1. The role of S1P, SphK2, and S1PR2 signaling in regulation of bile acid synthesis is not known.


When challenged with an HFD, CYP7A1-tg mice had lower body fat mass and higher lean mass compared to wild-type mice. As a platform for comprehensive and quantitative description of the set of lipid species, lipidomics was used to investigate the mechanism of this phenotype. By use of an unsupervised PCA model with the cumulative R2X 0.677 for serum and 0.593 for liver, CYP7A1-tg and wild-type mice were clearly separated based on the scores plot (Supplementary Fig. S2), indicating that these two groups have distinct lipidomic profiles. Supervised PLS-DA models were then established to maximize the difference of metabolic profiles between CYP7A1-tg and wild-type groups as well as to facilitate the screening of lipid marker metabolites (Fig. 3).

PLS-DA analysis of CYP7A1-tg and wild-type (WT)mice challenged with HFD. Based on the score plots, distinct lipidomic profiles of male CYP7A1-tg and wild-type groups were shown for serum (A) and liver samples (B). Based on the loading plots (C for serum and D for liver) the most significant ions that led to the separation between CYP7A1-tg and wild-type groups were obtained and identified as follows: 1. LPC16:0; 2. LPC18:0; 3. LPC18:1; 4. LPC 18:2; 5. PC16:0-20:4; 6. PC16:0-22:6; 7. SM16:0. (not shown)

Fig. 5. OPLS-DA highlighted thirteen markers in bile acid pathway that contribute significantly to the clustering of CYP7A1-tg and wild-type (WT) mice. Ileum bile acids are shown. (not shown)

(A) In the score plot, female CYP7A1-tg andWTmicewere well separated;

(B) using a statistically significant thresholds of variable confidence approximately 0.75 in the S-plot, a number of ions were screened out as potential markers, which were later identified as 13 bile acid metabolites, including α-MCA, TCA, CDCA, and TCDCA etc.

Our recent study of CYP7A1-tg mice revealed that increased CYP7A1 expression and enlarged bile acid pool resulted in significant improvement of lipid homeostasis and resistance to high-fed diet-induced hepatic steatosis, insulin resistance, and obesity in CYP7A1-tg mice. In this study, metabolomics and lipidomics were employed to characterize the metabolic profiles of CYP7A1-tg mice and to provide new insights into the critical role of bile acids in regulation of lipid metabolism and metabolic diseases. Lipidomics analysis of serum lipid profiles of high fat diet-fed CYP7A1-tg identified 7 lipidomic markers that were reduced in CYP7A1-tg mice compared to wild type mice. Metabolomics analysis identified 13 bile acid metabolites that were altered in CYP7A1-tg mice. In CYP7A1-tg mice, TCA and TDCA were reduced, whereas T-β-MCA was increased in the intestine compared to that of wild type mice. The decrease of serum LPC, PC, SM and CER, and 12α-hydroxylated bile acids, and increase of T-β-MCA may contribute to the resistance to diet-induced obesity and diabetes in CYP7A1-tg mice (Fig. 8).

The present metabolomics and lipidomics analysis revealed that even upon challenging with HFD, CYP7A1-tg mice had reduced lipid levels including LPC, PC, SM and CER. Metabolomics studies of human steatotic liver tissues and HFD-fed mice showed that serum and liver LPC and PC and other lipids levels were increased compared with non-steatotic livers, suggesting altered lipid metabolism contributes to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In HFD-fed CYP7A1-tg mice, reduced serum PC, LPC, SM and CER levels suggest a role for bile acids in maintaining phospholipid homeostasis to prevent NAFLD. SMs are important membrane phospholipids that interact with cholesterol in membrane rafts and regulate cholesterol distribution and homeostasis. A role for SM and CER in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity and development of atherosclerosis has been reported. CER has a wide range of biological functions in cellular signaling such as activating protein kinase C and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), induction of β-cell apoptosis and insulin resistance. CER increases reactive oxidizing species and activates the NF-κB pathway, which induces proinflammatory cytokines, diabetes and insulin resistance. CER is synthesized from serine and palmitoyl-CoA or hydrolysis of SM by acid sphingomyelinase (ASM). HFD is known to increase CER and SM in liver. The present observation of decreased SM and CER levels in HFD-fed CYP7A1-tg mice indicated that bile acids might reduce HFD-induced increase of SM and CER. DCA activates an ASM to convert SM to CER, and Asm−/− hepatocytes are resistant to DCA induction of CER and activation of the JNK pathway [65]. In CYP7A1-tg mice, enlarged bile acid pool inhibits CYP8B1 and reduces CA and DCA levels. Thus, decreasing DCA may reduce ASM activity and SM and CER levels, and contribute to reducing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity in CYP7A1-tg mice. It has been reported recently that in diabetic patients, serum 12α-hydroxylated bile acids are increased and correlated to insulin resistance [66].

Fig. 8. Mechanisms of anti-diabetic and anti-obesity function of bile acids in CYP7A1-tg mice. In CYP7A1-tg mice, overexpressing CYP7A1 increases bile acid pool size and reduces cholic acid by inhibiting CYP8B1. Lipidomics analysis revealed decreased serum LPC, PC, SM and CER. These lipidomic markers are increased in hepatic steatosis and NAFLD. Bile acids may reduce LPC, PC, SM and CER levels and protect against high fat diet-induced insulin resistance and obesity in CYP7A1-tgmice. Metabolomics analysis showed decreased intestinal TCA and TDCA and increased intestinal T-β-MCA in CYP7A1-tgmice.High fat diets are known to increase CA synthesis and intestinal inflammation. It is proposed that decreasing CA and  DCA synthesis may increase intestinal T-β-MCA,which antagonizes FXR signaling to increase bile acid synthesis and prevent high fat diet-induced insulin resistance and obesity. (not shown)

In conclusion,metabolomics and lipidomicswere employed to characterize the metabolic profiles of CYP7A1-tg mice, aiming to provide new insights into the mechanism of bile acid signaling in regulation of lipid metabolism and maintain lipid homeostasis. A number of lipid and bile acid markers were unveiled in this study. Decreasing of lipid markers, especially SM and CER may explain the improved insulin sensitivity and obesity in CYP7A1-tg mice. Furthermore, this study uncovered that enlarged bile acid pool size and altered bile acid composition may reduce de-conjugation by gut microbiota and increase tauroconjugated muricholic acids, which partially inhibit intestinal FXR signaling without affecting hepatic FXR signaling. This study is significant in applying metabolomics for diagnosis of lipid biomarkers for fatty liver diseases, obesity and diabetes. Increasing CYP7A1 activity and bile acid synthesis coupled to decreasing CYP8B1 and 12α-hydroxylated bile acids may be a therapeutic strategy for treating diabetes and obesity.


Bile acids are nutrient signaling hormones

Huiping Zhou, Phillip B. Hylemon
Steroids 86 (2014) 62–68

Bile salts play crucial roles in allowing the gastrointestinal system to digest, transport and metabolize nutrients. They function as nutrient signaling hormones by activating specific nuclear receptors (FXR, PXR, Vitamin D) and G-protein coupled receptors [TGR5, sphingosine-1 phosphate receptor 2 (S1PR2), muscarinic receptors]. Bile acids and insulin appear to collaborate in regulating the metabolism of nutrients in the liver. They both activate the AKT and ERK1/2 signaling pathways. Bile acid induction of the FXR-a target gene, small heterodimer partner (SHP), is highly dependent on the activation PKCf, a branch of the insulin signaling pathway. SHP is an important regulator of glucose and lipid metabolism in the liver. One might hypothesize that chronic low grade inflammation which is associated with insulin resistance, may inhibit bile acid signaling and disrupt lipid metabolism. The disruption of these signaling pathways may increase the risk of fatty liver and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Finally, conjugated bile acids appear to promote cholangiocarcinoma growth via the activation of S1PR2.


In the past, bile salts were considered to be just detergent molecules that were required for the solubilization of cholesterol in the gall bladder, promoting the digestion of dietary lipids and stimulating the absorption of lipids, cholesterol and fat-soluble vitamins in the intestines. Bile salts were also known to stimulate bile flow, promote cholesterol secretion from the liver, and have antibacterial properties. However, in 1999, three independent laboratories reported that bile acids were natural ligands for the farnesoid X receptor (FXR-α) . The recognition that bile acids activated specific nuclear receptors started a renaissance in the field of bile acid research. Since 1999, bile acids have been reported to activate other nuclear receptors (pregnane X receptor, vitamin D receptor), G protein coupled receptors [TGR5, sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor 2 (S1PR2), muscarinic receptor 2 (M2)] and cell signaling pathways (JNK1/2, AKT, and ERK1/2). Deoxycholic acid (DCA), a secondary bile acid, has also been reported to activate the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). It is now clear that bile acids function as hormones or nutrient signaling molecules that help to regulate glucose, lipid, lipoprotein, and energy metabolism as well as inflammatory responses.

Bile acids are synthesized from cholesterol in liver hepatocytes, conjugated to either glycine or taurine and actively secreted via ABC transporters on the canalicular membrane into biliary bile. Conjugated bile acids are often referred to as bile salts. Bile acid synthesis represents a major output pathway of cholesterol from the body. Bile acids are actively secreted from hepatocytes via the bile salt export protein (BSEP, ABCB11) along with phospholipids by ABCB4 and cholesterol by ABCG5/ABCG8 in a fairly constant ratio under normal conditions. Bile acids are detergent molecules and form mixed micelles with cholesterol and phospholipids, which help to keep cholesterol in solution in the gall bladder. Eating stimulates the gall bladder to contract, emptying its contents into the small intestines. Bile salts are crucial for the solubilization and absorption of cholesterol and lipids as well as lipid soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). They activate pancreatic enzymes and form mixed micelles with lipids in the small intestines, promoting their absorption. Bile acids are efficiently recovered from the intestines, primarily the ileum, by the apical sodium dependent transporter (ASBT). Bile acids are secreted from ileocytes, on the basolateral side, by the organic solute OSTα/OSTβ transporter. Secondary bile acids, formed by 7α-dehydroxylation of primary bile acids by anaerobic gut bacteria, can be passively absorbed from the large bowel or secreted in the feces. Absorbed bile acids return to the liver via the portal blood where they are actively transported into hepatocytes primarily via the sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (NTCP, SLC10A1). Bile acids are again actively secreted from the hepatocytes into the bile, stimulating bile flow and the secretion of cholesterol and phospholipids. Bile acids undergo enterohepatic circulation several times each day (Fig. 1). During their enterohepatic circulation approximately 500–600 mg/day are lost via fecal excretion and must be replaced by new bile acid synthesis in the liver. The bile acid pool size is tightly regulated as excess bile acids can be highly toxic to mammalian cells.

Enterohepatic circulation of bile acids


Enterohepatic circulation of bile acids. Bile acids are synthesized and conjugated mainly to glycine or taurine in hepatocytes. Bile acids travel to the gall bladder for storage during the fasting state. During digestion, bile acids travel to the duodenum via the common bile duct. 95% of the bile acids delivered to the duodenum are absorbed back into blood within the ileum and circulate back to the liver through the portal vein. 5% of bile acids are lost in feces.

There are two pathways of bile acid synthesis in the liver, the neutral pathway and the acidic pathway (Fig. 2). The neutral pathway is believed to be the major pathway of bile acid synthesis in humans under normal physiological conditions. The neutral pathway is initiated by cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase (CYP7A1), which is the rate-limiting step in this biochemical pathway. CYP7A1 is a cytochrome P450 monooxygenase, and the gene encoding this enzyme is highly regulated by a feed-back repressive mechanism involving the FXR-dependent induction of fibroblast growth factor 15/19 (FGF15/19) by bile acids in the intestines. FGF15/19 binds to the fibroblast growth factor receptor 4 (FGFR4)/β-Klotho complex in hepatocytes activating both the JNK1/2 and ERK1/2 signaling cascades. Activation of the JNK1/2 pathway has been reported to down-regulate CYP7A1 mRNA in hepatocytes. FGFR4 and β-Klotho mice have increased levels of CYP7A1 and upregulated bile acid synthesis. Moreover, treatment of FXR mice with a specific FXR agonist failed to repress CYP7A1 in the liver. These results support an important role of FGF15, synthesized in the intestines by activation of FXR, in the regulation of CYP7A1 and bile acid synthesis in the liver. CYP7A1 has also been reported to be down-regulated by glucagon and pro-inflammatory cytokines and up-regulated by glucose and insulin during the postprandial period.

Fig. 2. (not shown) Biosynthetic pathways of bile acids. Two major pathways are involved in bile acid synthesis. The neutral (or classic) pathway is controlled by cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase (CYP7A1) in the endoplasmic reticulum. The acidic (or alternative) pathway is controlled by sterol 27-hydroxylase (CYP27A1) in mitochondria. The sterol 12α-hydroxylase (CYP8B1) is required to synthesis of cholic acid (CA). The oxysterol 7α-hydroxylase (CYP7B1) is involved in the formation of chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) in acidic pathway. The neutral pathway is also able to form CDCA by CYP27A1.

The neutral pathway of bile acid synthesis produces both cholic acid (CA) and chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) (Fig. 2). The ratio of CA and CDCA is primarily determined by the activity of sterol 12α-hydroxylase (CYP8B1). The gene encoding CYP8B1 is also highly regulated by bile acids. Bile acids induce the gene encoding small heterodimer partner (SHP) in the liver via activation of the farnesoid X receptor (FXR-α). SHP is an orphan nuclear receptor without a DNA binding domain. It interacts with several transcription factors, including hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 (HNF4α) and liver-related homolog-1 (LRH-1), and acts as a dominant negative protein to inhibit transcription. In this regard, a liver specific knockout of LRH-1 completely abolished the expression of CYP8B1, but had little effect on CYP7A1. These results suggest that the interaction of SHP with LRH-1, caused by bile acids, may be the key regulator of hepatic CYP8B1 and the ratio of CA/CDCA. The acidic or alternative pathway of bile acid synthesis is initiated in the inner membrane of mitochondria by sterol 27-hydroxylase (CYP27A1). This enzyme also has low sterol 25-hydroxylase activity. CYP27A1 is capable of further oxidizing the 27-hydroxy group to a carboxylic acid. Unlike, CYP7A1, CYP27A1 is widely expressed in various tissues in the body where it may produce regulatory oxysterols. Even though CYP27A1 is the initial enzyme in the acidic pathway of bile acid synthesis, it may not be the rate limiting step. The inner mitochondrial membrane is very low in cholesterol content. Hence, cholesterol transport into the mitochondria appears to be the rate limiting step.

The acidic pathway of bile acid synthesis is now being viewed as an important pathway for generating regulatory oxysterols. For example, 25-hydroxy-cholesterol and 27-hydroxycholesterol are natural ligands for the liver X receptor (LXR), which is involved in regulating cholesterol and lipid metabolism. Moreover, recent studies report that 25-hydroxycholesterol, formed by CYP27A1, can be converted into 5-cholesten-3β-25-diol-3-sulfate in the liver. The sulfated 25-hydroxycholesterol is a regulator of inflammatory responses, lipid metabolism and cell proliferation, and is located in the liver. Recent evidence suggests that sulfated 25-hydroxycholesterol is a ligand for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARc), which is a major regulator of inflammation and lipid metabolism. The 7α-hydroxylation of oxysterols is catalyzed by oxysterol 7α-hydroxylase (CYP7B1). This biotransformation allows some of these oxysterols to be converted to bile acids. Finally, oxysterols generated in extrahepatic tissues can be transported to the liver and metabolized into bile acids.

Bile acids can activate several different nuclear receptors (FXR, PXR and Vitamin D) and GPCRs (TGR5, S1PR2, and [M2] Muscarinic receptor). The ability of different bile acids to activate FXR-α occurs in the following order CDCA > LCA = DCA > CA; for the pregnane X receptor (PXR) LCA > DCA > CA and the vitamin D receptor, 3-oxo-LCA > LCA > DCA > CA. LCA is the best activator of PXR and the vitamin D receptor which correlates with the hydrophobicity and toxicity of this bile acid toward mammalian cells. Activation of PXR and the vitamin D receptor induces genes encoding enzymes which metabolize LCA into a more hydrophilic and less toxic metabolite. These nuclear receptors appear to function in the protection of cells from hydrophobic bile acids. In contrast, FXR-α appears to play a much more extensive role in the body by regulating bile acid synthesis, transport, and enterohepatic circulation. Moreover, FXR-α also participates in the regulation of glucose, lipoprotein and lipid metabolism in the liver as well as a suppressor of inflammation in the liver and intestines.

TGR5, also referred to as membrane-type bile acid receptor (MBAR), was the first GPCR to be reported to be activated by bile acids in the order LCA > DCA > CDCA > CA. TGR5 is a Gas type receptor which activates adenyl cyclase activity increasing the rate of the synthesis of c-AMP. TGR5 is widely expressed in human tissues, including: intestinal neuroendocrine cells, gall bladder, spleen, brown adipose tissue, macrophages and cholangiocytes, but not hepatocytes. TGR5 may play a role in various physiological processes in the body. TGR5 appears to be important in regulating energy metabolism. It has been postulated that bile acids may activate TGR5 in brown adipose tissue, activating type 2-iodothyroxine deiodinase and leading to increased levels of thyroid hormone and stimulation of energy metabolism. Moreover, TGR5 has been reported to promote the release of glucagon-like peptide-1 release from neuroendocrine cells, which increases insulin release in the pancreas. These results suggest that TGR5 may play a role in glucose homeostasis in the body. TGR5 is a potential target for drug development for treating type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

Interrelationship between sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor 2 and the insulin signaling pathway


Interrelationship between sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor 2 and the insulin signaling pathway in regulating hepatic nutrient metabolism. S1PR2, sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor 2; Src, Src Kinase; EGFR, epidermal growth factor receptor; PPARa, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha; NTCP, Na+/taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide; BSEP, bile salt export pump; PC, phosphotidylcholine; PECK, phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase; G6Pase, glucose-6-phosphatase; PDK1, phosphoinositide-dependent protein kinase 1; AKT, protein kinase B; SREBP, sterol regulatory element-binding protein; PKCf, protein kinase C zeta; FXR, farnesoid X receptor; SHP, small heterodimeric partner; MDR3, phospholipid transporter (ABCB4); GSK3b, glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta.


Both unconjugated and conjugated bile acids activate the insulin signaling (AKT) and ERK1/2 pathways in hepatocytes. Interesting, insulin and bile acids both activated glycogen synthase activity to a similar extent in primary rat hepatocytes. Moreover, the addition of both insulin and bile acids to the culture medium resulted in an additive effect on activation of glycogen synthase activity in primary hepatocytes. Infusion of taurocholate (TCA) into the chronic bile fistula rat rapidly activated the AKT and ERK1/2 signaling pathway and glycogen synthase activity. In addition, there was a rapid down-regulation of the gluconeogenic genes, PEP carboxykinase (PEPCK) and glucose-6-phophatase (G-6-Pase) and a marked up-regulation of SHP mRNA in these sample livers. These results suggest that TCA functions much like insulin to regulate hepatic glucose metabolism both in vitro and in vivo.

It has been reported that PKCζ phosphorylates FXR-α and may allow for its activation of target gene expression. In contrast, phosphorylation of FXR-α by AMPK inhibits the ability of FXR to induce target genes. PKCζ has been reported to be important for the translocation of the bile acid transporters NTCP (SLC10A1) and BSEP (ABC B11) to the basolateral and canalicular membranes, respectively. Finally, it has been recently reported that PKCζ phosphorylates SHP allowing both to translocate to the nucleus and down-regulate genes via epigenetic mechanisms. In total, these results all suggest that the insulin signaling pathway is an important regulator of FXR-α activation and bile acid signaling in the liver.

The activation of the insulin signaling pathway and FXR-α appear to collaborate in the coordinate regulation of glucose, bile acid and lipid metabolism in the liver. SHP, an FXR target gene, is an important pleotropic regulator of multiple metabolic pathways in the liver (Fig. 3). The S1PR2 appears to be an important regulator of hepatic lipid metabolism as S1PR2 mice rapidly (2 weeks) develop overt fatty livers on a high fat diet as compared to wild type mice (unpublished data). It is well established that inflammation and the synthesis of inflammatory cytokines i.e. TNFα inhibit insulin signaling by activation of the JNK1/2 signaling pathway, which phosphorylates insulin receptor substrate 1. Inflammation is believed to be an important factor in the development of type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease. A Western diet is correlated with low grade chronic inflammation and insulin resistance. Inhibition of the insulin signaling pathway may decrease the ability of bile acids to activate FXR-α, induce SHP and other FXR target genes, leading to an increased risk of fatty liver and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

There appears to be extensive interplay between bile salts and insulin signaling in the regulation of nutrient metabolism in both the intestines and liver. Bile salts play a key role in the solubilization and absorption of nutrients from the intestines. The absorption of nutrients stimulates the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Moreover, bile acids may also stimulate the secretion of insulin by activating TGR5 in intestinal neuroendocrine cells resulting in the secretion of glucagon-like peptide-1. In the liver, bile salts and insulin both activate the AKT and ERK1/2 signaling pathways which yields a stronger signal than either alone. The activation of PKCζ, a branch of the insulin signaling pathway, is required for the optimal induction of FXR target genes and the regulation of the cellular location of bile acid transporters


Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: A dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies

  1. Wu, D. Zhang, X. Jiang, W. Jiang
    Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases (2015) 25, 140-147

Background and aims: We conducted a dose-response meta-analysis to summarize the evidence from prospective cohort studies regarding the association of fruit and vegetable consumption with risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Methods and results: Pertinent studies were identified by searching Embase and PubMed through June 2014. Study-specific results were pooled using a random-effect model. The dose-response relationship was assessed by the restricted cubic spline model and the multivariate random-effect meta-regression. We standardized all data using a standard portion size of 106 g. The Relative Risk (95% confidence interval) [RR (95% CI)] of T2DM was 0.99 (0.98-1.00) for every 1 serving/day increment in fruit and vegetable (FV) (P < 0.18), 0.98 (0.95-1.01) for vegetable (P < 0.12), and 0.99 (0.97-1.00) for fruit (P < 0.05). The RR (95%CI) of T2DM was 0.99 (0.97-1.01), 0.98 (0.96-1.01), 0.97 (0.93-1.01), 0.96 (0.92-1.01), 0.96 (0.91-1.01) and 0.96 (0.91-1.01) for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 servings/day of FV (P for non-linearity < 0.44). The T2DM risk was 0.96 (0.95-0.99), 0.94 (0.90-0.98), 0.94 (0.89-0.98), 0.96 (0.91-1.01), 0.98 (0.92-1.05) and 1.00 (0.93-1.08) for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 servings/day of vegetable (P for non-linearity < 0.01). The T2DM risk was 0.95 (0.93-0.97), 0.91 (0.89-0.94), 0.88 (0.85-0.92), 0.92 (0.88-0.96) and 0.96 (0.92-1.01) for 0.5, 1, 2, 3 and 4 servings/day of fruit (P for non-linearity < 0.01). Conclusions: Two-three servings/day of vegetable and 2 servings/day of fruit conferred a lower risk of T2DM than other levels of vegetable and fruit consumption, respectively.

dose-response analysis between total fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus


The dose-response analysis between total fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. The solid line and the long dash line represent the estimated relative risk and its 95% confidence interval.


Healthy behaviours and 10-year incidence of diabetes: A population cohort study

G.H. Long , I. Johansson , O. Rolandsson , …, E. Fhärm, L.Weinehall, et al.
Preventive Medicine 71 (2015) 121–127

Objective. To examine the association between meeting behavioral goals and diabetes incidence over 10 years in a large, representative Swedish population. Methods. Population-based prospective cohort study of 32,120 individuals aged 35 to 55 years participating in a health promotion intervention in Västerbotten County, Sweden (1990 to 2013). Participants underwent an oral glucose tolerance test, clinical measures, and completed diet and activity questionnaires. Poisson regression quantified the association between achieving six behavioral goals at baseline – body mass index (BMI) < 25 kg/m2, moderate physical activity, non-smoker, fat intake  < 30% of energy, fibre intake ≥15 g/4184 kJ and alcohol intake ≤ 20 g/day – and diabetes incidence over 10 years. Results. Median interquartile range (IQR) follow-up time was 9.9 (0.3) years; 2211 individuals (7%) developed diabetes. Only 4.4% of participants met all 6 goals (n = 1245) and compared to these individuals, participants meeting 0/1 goals had a 3.74 times higher diabetes incidence (95% confidence interval (CI) = 2.50 to 5.59), adjusting for sex, age, calendar period, education, family history of diabetes, history of myocardial infarction and long-term illness. If everyone achieved at least four behavioral goals, 14.1% (95% CI: 11.7 to 16.5%) of incident diabetes cases might be avoided. Conclusion. Interventions promoting the achievement of behavioral goals in the general population could significantly reduce diabetes incidence.


Long term nutritional intake and the risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD): A population based study

Shira Zelber-Sagi, Dorit Nitzan-Kaluski, Rebecca Goldsmith, et al.
Journal of Hepatology 47 (2007) 711–717

Background/Aims: Weight loss is considered therapeutic for patients with NAFLD. However, there is no epidemiological evidence that dietary habits are associated with NAFLD. Dietary patterns associated with primary NAFLD were investigated. Methods: A cross-sectional study of a sub-sample (n = 375) of the Israeli National Health and Nutrition Survey. Exclusion criteria were any known etiology for secondary NAFLD. Participants underwent an abdominal ultrasound, biochemical tests, dietary and anthropometric evaluations. A semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire was administered. Results: After exclusion, 349 volunteers (52.7% male, mean age 50.7 ± 10.4, 30.9% primary NAFLD) were included. The NAFLD group consumed almost twice the amount of soft drinks (P = 0.03) and 27% more meat (P < 0.001). In contrast, the NAFLD group consumed somewhat less fish rich in omega-3 (P = 0.056). Adjusting for age, gender, BMI and total calories, intake of soft drinks and meat was significantly associated with an increased risk for NAFLD (OR = 1.45, 1.13–1.85 95% CI and OR = 1.37, 1.04–1.83 95% CI, respectively). Conclusions: NAFLD patients have a higher intake of soft drinks and meat and a tendency towards a lower intake of fish rich in omega-3. Moreover, a higher intake of soft drinks and meat is associated with an increased risk of NAFLD, independently of age, gender, BMI and total calories.


The association between types of eating behavior and dispositional mindfulness in adults with diabetes. Results from Diabetes MILES. The Netherlands

Sanne R. Tak, Christel Hendrieckx, Giesje Nefs, Ivan Nyklícek, et al.
Appetite 87 (2015) 288–295

Although healthy food choices are important in the management of diabetes, making dietary adaptations is often challenging. Previous research has shown that people with type 2 diabetes are less likely to benefit from dietary advice if they tend to eat in response to emotions or external cues. Since high levels of dispositional mindfulness have been associated with greater awareness of healthy dietary practices in students and in the general population, it is relevant to study the association between dispositional mindfulness and eating behavior in people with type 1 or 2 diabetes. We analyzed data from Diabetes MILES – The Netherlands, a national observational survey in which 634 adults with type 1 or 2 diabetes completed the Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire (to assess restrained, external and emotional eating behavior) and the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire-Short Form (to assess dispositional mindfulness), in addition to other psychosocial measures. After controlling for potential confounders, including  demographics, clinical variables and emotional distress, hierarchical linear regression analyses showed that higher levels of dispositional mindfulness were associated with eating behaviors that were more restrained (β = 0.10) and less external (β = −0.11) and emotional (β = −0.20). The mindfulness subscale ‘acting with awareness’ was the strongest predictor of both external and emotional eating behavior, whereas for emotional eating, ‘describing’ and ‘being non-judgmental’ were also predictive. These findings suggest that there is an association between dispositional mindfulness and eating behavior in adults with type 1 or 2 diabetes. Since mindfulness interventions increase levels of dispositional mindfulness, future studies could examine if these interventions are also effective in helping people with diabetes to reduce emotional or external eating behavior, and to improve the quality of their diet.


Soft drink consumption is associated with fatty liver disease independent of metabolic syndrome

Ali Abid, Ola Taha, William Nseir, Raymond Farah, Maria Grosovski, Nimer Assy
Journal of Hepatology 51 (2009) 918–924

Background/Aims: The independent role of soft drink consumption in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) patients remains unclear. We aimed to assess the association between consumption of soft drinks and fatty liver in patients with or without metabolic syndrome. Methods: We recruited 31 patients (age: 43 ± 12 years) with NAFLD and risk factors for metabolic syndrome, 29 patients with NAFLD and without risk factors for metabolic syndrome, and 30 gender- and age-matched individuals without NAFLD. The degree of fatty infiltration was measured by ultrasound. Data on physical activity and intake of food and soft drinks were collected during two 7-day periods over 6 months using a food questionnaire. Insulin resistance, inflammation, and oxidant–antioxidant markers were measured.
Results: We found that 80% of patients with NAFLD had excessive intake of  soft drink beverages (>500 cm3/day) compared to 17% of healthy controls (p < 0.001). The NAFLD group consumed five times more carbohydrates from soft drinks compared to healthy controls (40% vs. 8%, p < 0.001). Seven percent of patients consumed one soft drink per day, 55% consumed two or three soft drinks per day, and 38% consumed more than four soft drinks per day for most days and for the 6-month period. The most common soft drinks were Coca-Cola (regular: 32%; diet: 21%) followed by fruit juices (47%). Patients with NAFLD with metabolic syndrome had similar malonyldialdehyde, paraoxonase, and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels but higher homeostasis model assessment (HOMA) and higher ferritin than NAFLD patients without metabolic syndrome (HOMA: 8.3 ± 8 vs. 3.7 ± 3.7 mg/dL, p < 0.001; ferritin: 186 ± 192 vs. 87 ± 84 mg/dL, p < 0.01). Logistic regression analysis showed that soft drink consumption is a strong predictor of fatty liver (odds ratio: 2.0; p < 0.04) independent of metabolic syndrome and CRP level. Conclusions: NAFLD patients display higher soft drink consumption independent of metabolic syndrome diagnosis. These findings might optimize NAFLD risk stratification.


Dietary predictors of arterial stiffness in a cohort with type 1 and type 2 diabetes

K.S. Petersen, J.B. Keogh, P.J. Meikle, M.L. Garg, P.M. Clifton
Atherosclerosis 238 (2015) 175-181

Objective: To determine the dietary predictors of central blood pressure, augmentation index and pulse wave velocity (PWV) in subjects with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Methods: Participants were diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and had PWV and/or pulse wave analysis performed. Dietary intake was measured using the Dietary Questionnaire for Epidemiological Studies Version 2 Food Frequency Questionnaire. Serum lipid species and carotenoids were measured, using liquid chromatography electrospray ionization- tandem mass spectrometry and high performance liquid chromatography, as biomarkers  of dairy and vegetable intake, respectively. Associations were determined using linear regression adjusted for potential confounders. Results: PWV (n = 95) was inversely associated with reduced fat dairy intake (β = -0.01; 95% CI -0.02, -0.01; p = 0 < 0.05) in particular yoghurt consumption (β = 0.04; 95% CI -0.09, -0.01; p = 0 < 0.05) after multivariate adjustment. Total vegetable consumption was negatively associated with PWV in the whole cohort after full adjustment (β =0.04; 95% CI -0.07, -0.01; p < 0.05). Individual lipid species, particularly those containing 14:0, 15:0, 16:0, 17:0 and 17:1 fatty acids, known to be of ruminant origin, in lysophosphatidylcholine, cholesterol ester, diacylglycerol, phosphatidylcholine, sphingomyelin and triacylglycerol classes were positively associated with intake of full fat dairy, after adjustment for multiple comparisons. However, there was no association between serum lipid species and PWV. There were no dietary predictors of central blood pressure or augmentation index after multivariate adjustment. Conclusion: In this cohort of subjects with diabetes reduced fat dairy intake and vegetable consumption were inversely associated with PWV. The lack of a relationship between serum lipid species and PWV suggests that the fatty acid composition of dairy may not explain the beneficial effect.

In this cohort with type 1 and type 2 diabetes there was an inverse association between reduced fat dairy intake, in particular yoghurt consumption, and PWV, which persisted after multivariate adjustment. Serum lipid species, known to be of ruminant origin, were positively associated with full fat dairy consumption; however there was no association between these lipid species and PWV. In addition, higher vegetable intake was also associated with lower PWV. There were no dietary predictors of central blood pressure or augmentation index identified in this cohort.

In this study there was no relationship between augmentation index and PWV, which has been previously reported. Augmentation index is not a direct measure of arterial stiffness and is influenced by the timing and magnitude of the wave reflection. In contrast, PWV is a robust measure of arterial stiffness as it is determined by measuring the velocity of the waveform between the carotid and femoral arteries. Previously, it has been shown that in a population with diabetes PWV was elevated compared with healthy controls, however augmentation index was not different. Lacy et al.  concluded that augmentation index is not a reliable measure of arterial stiffness in people with diabetes. This may explain why we did not see an association between augmentation index and dietary intake, despite seeing correlations with PWV.


Curcumin ameliorates diabetic nephropathy by inhibiting the activation of the SphK1-S1P signaling pathway

Juan Huang, Kaipeng Huang, Tian Lan, Xi Xie, .., Peiqing Liu, Heqing Huang
Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 365 (2013) 231–240

Curcumin, a major polyphenol from the golden spice Curcuma longa commonly known as turmeric, has been recently discovered to have renoprotective effects on diabetic nephropathy (DN). However, the mechanisms underlying these effects remain unclear. We previously demonstrated that the sphingosine kinase 1-sphingosine 1-phosphate (SphK1-S1P) signaling pathway plays a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of DN. This study aims to investigate whether the renoprotective effects of curcumin on DN are associated with its inhibitory effects on the SphK1-S1P signaling pathway. Our results demonstrated that the expression and activity of SphK1 and the production of S1P were significantly down-regulated by curcumin in diabetic rat kidneys and glomerular mesangial cells (GMCs) exposed to high glucose (HG). Simultaneously, SphK1-S1P-mediated fibronectin (FN) and transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-b1) overproduction were inhibited. In addition, curcumin dose dependently reduced SphK1 expression and activity in GMCs transfected with SphKWT and significantly suppressed the increase in SphK1-mediated FN levels. Furthermore, curcumin inhibited the DNA-binding activity of activator protein 1 (AP-1), and c-Jun small interference RNA (c-Jun-siRNA) reversed the HG-induced up-regulation of SphK1. These findings suggested that down-regulation of the SphK1-S1P pathway is probably a novel mechanism by which curcumin improves the progression of DN. Inhibiting AP-1 activation is one of the therapeutic targets of curcumin to modulate the SphK1-S1P signaling pathway, thereby preventing diabetic renal fibrosis.

The creation of the STZ-induced DN model relies on the level and continuous cycle of high blood glucose in vivo. Long-term hyperglycemia induces significant structural changes in the kidney, including glomerular hypertrophy, GBM thickening, and later glomerulosclerosis and tubulointerstitial fibrosis, leading to microalbuminuria and elevated Cr levels. These effects usually occur at around 8–12 weeks after diabetes formation. In the current study, the experimental diabetic model was induced by a single intraperitoneal injection of STZ (60 mg/kg). When the experiment was terminated at 12 weeks, FBG, KW/BW, BUN, Cr, and UP 24 h were significantly increased and body weight was remarkably decreased in the STZ-induced diabetic rats compared with those in the normal control group. Furthermore, PAS staining of the kidneys revealed the induction of glomerular hypertrophy, mesangial matrix expansion, and increased regional adhesion of the glomerular tuft to the Bowman’s capsule in the diabetic rats. This finding indicated the emergence of the diabetic renal injury model characterized by renal hypertrophy, glomerulus damage, and renal dysfunction. As the limited water solubility of curcumin, various methods such as heat treatment, mild alkali and sodium carboxymethyl cellulose are used to increase the solubility of curcumin before administration. Based on our previous study, we employed 1% sodium carboxymethyl cellulose as the vehicle to solubilize curcumin. Compared with the diabetic group, curcumin treatment slightly reduced FBG level and significantly decreased KW/BW, BUN, Cr, and UP 24 h. Moreover, curcumin remarkably improved glomerular pathological changes in the diabetic kidneys. Consistent with previous studies, the current results demonstrated that curcumin prominently ameliorated renal function and renal parenchymal alterations in the diabetic renal injury model. Previous studies revealed that the amelioration of renal dysfunction in diabetes by curcumin was partly related to its function in inhibiting inflammatory injury. Based on these findings, the current experiment further explored whether the renoprotective effects of curcumin are associated with the regulation of the SphK1-S1P signaling pathway.

S1P is a polar sphingolipid metabolite acting as an extracellular mediator and an intracellular second messenger. Ample evidence proves that S1P participates in cell growth, proliferation, migration, adhesion, molecule expression, and angiogenesis. The formation of S1P is catalyzed by SphK1. Recently, the SphK1-S1P signaling pathway has gained considerable attention because of its potential involvement in the progression of DN. Hyperglycemia, AGE, and oxidative stress can activate SphK1 and can increase the intracellular level of S1P. Geoffroy et al. (2004) reported that the treatment of cells with low AGE concentration increases SphK activity and S1P production, thereby and S1P content were significantly increased simultaneously with the up-regulated expression of FN and TGF-β1 (mRNA and protein) in the diabetic rat kidneys. These findings indicated the activation of the SphK1-S1P signaling pathway and the appearance of pathological alterations, including ECM accumulation. After curcumin treatment for 12 weeks, elevations of the said indexes were significantly inhibited. HG remarkably activated the SphK1-S1P signaling pathway and increased FN and TGF-β1 expressions in GMCs. Curcumin dramatically suppressed the SphK1-S1P pathway as well as FN and TGF-β1 levels in a dose-dependent manner. Overall, these results indicated that curcumin ameliorated the pathogenic progression of DN by inhibiting the activation of the SphK1-S1P signaling pathway, resulting in the down-regulation of TGF-β1 and the subsequent reduction of ECM accumulation.

SphK1 expression is mediated by a novel AP-1 element located within the first intron of the human SphK1 gene. AP-1 sites are also found in rat SphK1 promoter from NCBI. Numerous studies indicated that curcumin can inhibit the activity of AP-1 and is widely used as an AP-1 inhibitor. Therefore, further elucidating the link between the inhibition of the SphK1-S1P signaling pathway by curcumin and the suppression of AP-1 activity is important. The data showed that treatment with c-Jun-siRNA significantly down-regulated the basal levels of SphK1 expression. Thus, inhibiting AP-1 activity is one of the therapeutic targets of curcumin in modulating the SphK1-S1P signaling pathway, thereby inhibiting diabetic renal fibrosis.

In summary, curcumin inhibited SphK1 expression and activity, reduced S1P content, and effectively inhibited increased FN and TGF-β1 expressions mediated by the SphK1-S1P signaling pathway. Moreover, the inhibitory effect of curcumin on SphK1-S1P was independent of its hypoglycemic and anti-oxidant roles and might be closely related to the inhibition of AP-1 activity. Our findings suggested that the SphK1-S1P pathway might be a novel mechanism by which curcumin attenuates renal fibrosis and ameliorates DN. In addition, the present study provides further experimental evidence for the clinical application and new drug exploration of curcumin.


Antidiabetic Activity of Hydroalcoholic Extracts of Nardostachys jatamansi in Alloxan-induced Diabetic Rats

  1. A. Aleem, B. Syed Asad, Tasneem Mohammed, et al.
    British Journal of Medicine & Medical Research 4(28): 4665-4673, 2014

A review of literature indicates that diabetes mellitus was fairly well known and well conceived as an entity in India with complications like angiopathy, retinopathy, nephropathy, and causing neurological disorders. The antidiabetic study was carried out to estimate the anti-hyperglycemic potential of Nardostachys Jatamansi rhizome’s hydroalcoholic extracts in alloxan induced diabetic rats over a period of two weeks. The hydroalcoholic extract HAE1 at a dose (500mg/kg) exhibited significant antihyperglycemic activity than extract HAE2 at a dose (500mg/kg) in diabetic rats. The hydroalcoholic extracts showed improvement in different parameters associated with diabetes, like body weight, lipid profile and biochemical parameters. Extracts also showed improvement in regeneration of β-cells of pancreas in diabetic rats. Histopath-ological studies strengthen the healing of pancreas by hydroalcoholic extracts (HAE1& HAE2) of Nardostachys Jatamansi, as a probable mechanism of their antidiabetic activity.
Metabolic syndrome and serum carotenoids : findings of a cross-sectional study in Queensland, Australia

Coyne, T, Ibiebele, T,… McClintock, C and Shaw, J
Brit J Nutrition: Int J Nutr Sci 2009; 102(11). pp. 1668-1677
Several components of the metabolic syndrome, particularly diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are known to be oxidative stress-related conditions and there is research to suggest that antioxidant nutrients may play a protective role in these conditions. Carotenoids are compounds derived primarily from plants and several have been shown to be potent antioxidant nutrients. The aim of this study was to examine the associations between metabolic syndrome status and major serum carotenoids in adult Australians. Data on the presence of the metabolic syndrome, based on International Diabetes Federation criteria, were collected from 1523 adults aged 25 years and over in six randomly selected urban centers in Queensland, Australia, using a cross sectional study design. Weight, height, BMI, waist circumference, blood  pressure, fasting and 2-hour blood glucose and  lipids were determined, as well as five serum carotenoids. Mean serum alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and the sum of the five carotenoid concentrations were significantly lower (p<0.05) in persons with the metabolic syndrome (after adjusting for age, sex, education, BMI status, alcohol intake, smoking, physical activity status and vitamin/mineral use) than persons without the syndrome. Alpha, beta and total carotenoids also decreased significantly (p<0.05) with increased number of components of the metabolic syndrome, after adjusting for these confounders. These differences were significant among former smokers and non-smokers, but not in current smokers. Low concentrations of serum alpha-carotene, beta carotene and the sum of five carotenoids appear to be associated with metabolic syndrome status. Additional research, particularly longitudinal studies, may help to determine if these associations are causally related to the metabolic syndrome, or are a result of the pathologies of the syndrome.

Although there is no universal definition of the metabolic syndrome, it is generally described as a constellation of pathologies or anthropometric conditions, which include central obesity, glucose intolerance, lipid abnormalities, and hypertension. It is, however, universally accepted that the presence of the metabolic syndrome is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in developed countries varies widely depending upon definitions used and age ranges included, but is estimated to be 24% among adults 20 years and over in the US. Given the impending worldwide epidemic of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, strategies aimed at greater understanding of the pathology of the syndrome, as well as strategies aimed at preventing or treating persons with the syndrome are urgently required.

Few studies have investigated associations of antioxidant nutrients and the metabolic syndrome. Ford and colleagues reported lower levels of several carotenoids and vitamins C and E among those with metabolic syndrome present compared with those without the syndrome in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Sugiura et al.  suggested that several carotenoids may exert a protective effect against the development of the metabolic syndrome, especially among current smokers. Confirming these findings in another population may add strength to these associations.

Our study showed significantly lower concentrations of β-carotene, α-carotene and the sum of the five carotenoids among those with the metabolic syndrome present compared to those without. We also found decreasing concentrations of all the carotenoids tested as the number of the metabolic syndrome components increased. These findings are consistent with data reported by Ford et al. from the third 262 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). In the NHANES III study, significantly lower concentrations of all the carotenoids, except lycopene, were found among persons with the metabolic syndrome compared with those without, after adjusting for  confounding factors similar to those in our study.


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Effect of Dietary Magnesium Intake on Insulin Resistance

Reporter: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP

Dietary Magnesium Intake Improves Insulin Resistance among Non-Diabetic Individuals with Metabolic Syndrome Participating in a Dietary Trial

J Wang1,2,†, G Persuitte3,†, BC Olendzki2, NM Wedick2, …, and Yunsheng Ma 2,*
1 Department of Preventive Medicine, Medical School of Yangzhou University, Yangzhou 225001, China
2 Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01655, USA
3 Division of Biostatistics and Health Services Research, Department of Quantitative Health Science, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01655, USA †

Nutrients 27 Sep 2013; 5(10):3910-3919;

Many cross-sectional studies show

  1. an inverse association between dietary magnesium and insulin resistance, but
  2. few longitudinal studies examine the ability to meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
  • for magnesium intake through food and
  • its effect on insulin resistance among participants with metabolic syndrome (MetS).

The dietary intervention study examined this question in 234 individuals with MetS. Magnesium intake was assessed using 24-h dietary recalls at baseline, 6, and 12 months.

  1. Fasting glucose and insulin levels were collected at each time point; and
  2. insulin resistance was estimated by the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA-IR).

The relation between magnesium intake and HOMA-IR was assessed using linear mixed models adjusted for covariates.

  • Baseline magnesium intake was 287 ± 93 mg/day (mean ± standard deviation), and
  • HOMA-IR, fasting glucose and fasting insulin were 3.7 ± 3.5, 99 ± 13 mg/dL, and 15 ± 13 μU/mL, respectively.

At baseline, 6-, and 12-months, 23.5%, 30.4%, and 27.7% met the RDA for magnesium. After multivariate adjustment,

    • magnesium intake was inversely associated with metabolic biomarkers of insulin resistance (P < 0.01).

Further, the likelihood of elevated HOMA-IR (>3.6) over time was 71% lower [odds ratio (OR): 0.29; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.12, 0.72] in participants

  • in the highest quartile of magnesium intake than those in the lowest quartile.

For individuals meeting the RDA for magnesium,

  • the multivariate-adjusted OR for high HOMA-IR over time was 0.37 (95% CI: 0.18, 0.77).

These findings indicate that dietary magnesium intake is inadequate among non-diabetic individuals with MetS and suggest that

    • increasing dietary magnesium to meet the RDA has a protective effect on insulin resistance.

Keywords: magnesium; insulin resistance; metabolic syndrome; epidemiology

Cite This Article

Wang J, Persuitte G, Olendzki BC, Wedick NM, Zhang Z, Merriam PA, Fang H, Carmody J, Olendzki G-F, Ma Y. Dietary Magnesium Intake Improves Insulin Resistance among Non-Diabetic Individuals with Metabolic Syndrome Participating in a Dietary Trial. Nutrients. 2013; 5(10):3910-3919.

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Calcium Signaling, Cardiac Mitochondria and Metabolic Syndrome

Larry H Bernstein: Author 


Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Mitochondria, the cardiovascular system and metabolic syndrome

Start date
April 24, 2013
End date
April 24, 2013
London, UK / Kennedy Lecture Theatre, Institute of Child Health
London, UK
– Mitochondrial ROS metabolism in the heart
– Mitochondrial permeability transition pore
– Mitochondria in vascular smooth muscle
– Therapeutic targets for cardiac disease

Invited speakers

This event has now passed – please visit our Conference calendar for future Abcam events

Confirmed speakers:

Paolo Bernardi, University of Padova, Italy
‘The mitochondrial permeability transition pore: A mystery solved?’

Susan Chalmers, University of Strathclyde Glasgow
‘Mitochondria in vascular smooth muscle: from regulation of calcium signals to control of proliferation’

Andrew Hall, UCL
‘The role of sirtuin 3 in cardiac dysfunction’

Derek Hausenloy, UCL
‘Mitochondrial dynamics as a therapeutic target for cardiac disease’

Guy Rutter, Imperial College London
‘Mitochondria and insulin secretion – links to diabetes’ 

Michael Murphy, MRC Mitochondiral Biology Unit, Cambridge
‘Exploring mitochondrial ROS metabolism in the heart using targeted probes and bioactive molecules’

Toni Vidal Puig, Institute of Metabolic Science, University of Cambridge
‘Adipose tissue expandability, lipotoxicity and the metabolic syndrome’ 


It all happens in a heartbeat

Calcium signaling is instrumental for excitation-contraction coupling (ECC). The involvement of mitochondria  in establishing rapid cytosolic calcium transients in this process remain debated.

Two models have emerged:

  • slow integration versus rapid and
  • ample beat-to-beat changes of

cytosolic calcium transients into the mitochondria matrix.

a brief outline of cardiac calcium signaling » 

Mitochondrial Calcium transport mechanisms 

Calcium influx can be mediated by:

  • Mitochondrial Calcium Uniporter (MCU)
  • Mitochondrial Ryanodine receptor type 1 (mRyR1)
  • Leucine-zipper-EF-hand-containing transmembrane protein 1 (LETM1)
  • Proposed uptake by UCP2 and 3 and Coenzyme Q10

Calcium efflux can be mediated by:

  • Na-dependent calcium extrusion pathway, mNCX1
  • Mitochondrial permeability transistion pore (mPTP)

Inhibiting Calcium signaling 

Homeostasis of mitochondrial Ca2+ is crucial for balancing cell survival, death and energy production. Inhibitors of mitochondrial Ca2+ exchange are:

  1. CGP37157 – Selective mitochondrial Na+-Ca2+ exchange inhibitor
  2. Thapsigargin – Potent, cell-permeable Ca2+-ATPase inhibitor
  3. Ryanodine – Ca2+ release modulator

calcium signaling inhibitors (now available from Abcam Biochemicals)  » 

Quick tools for calcium detection 

You can now detect intracellular calcium mobilization directly in cultured cells in only 1 hour with Fluo-8 No Wash Calcium Assay Kit (ab112129):

  • increased signal with Fluo-8 – high affinity indicator (Kd = 389 nM)
  • no wash step needed
  • works on adherent and suspension cells

The Mitochondria, cardiovascular system and metabolic syndrome meeting took place on April 24 2013,  London, UK.

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Finding the Genetic Links in Common Disease:  Caveats of Whole Genome Sequencing Studies

Writer and Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

In the November 23, 2012 issue of Science, Jocelyn Kaiser reports (Genetic Influences On Disease Remain Hidden in News and Analysis)[1] on the difficulties that many genomic studies are encountering correlating genetic variants to high risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  At the recent American Society of Human Genetics annual 2012 meeting, results of several DNA sequencing studies reported difficulties in finding genetic variants and links to high risk type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  These studies were a part of an international effort to determine the multiple genetic events contributing to complex, common diseases like diabetes.  Unlike Mendelian inherited diseases (like ataxia telangiectasia) which are characterized by defects mainly in one gene, finding genetic links to more complex diseases may pose a problem as outlined in the article:

  • Variants may be so rare that massive number of patient’s genome would need to be analyzed
  • For most diseases, individual SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) raise risk modestly
  • Hard to find isolated families (hemophilia) or isolated populations (Ashkenazi Jew)
  • Disease-influencing genes have not been weeded out by natural selection after human population explosion (~5000 years ago) resulted in numerous gene variants
  • What percentage variants account for disease heritability (studies have shown this is as low as 26% for diabetes with the remaining risk determined by environment)

Although many genome-wide-associations studies have found SNPs that have causality to increasing risk diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, most individual SNPs for common diseases raise risk by about only 20-40% and would be useless for predicting an individual’s chance they will develop disease and be a candidate for a personalized therapy approach.  Therefore, for common diseases, investigators are relying on direct exome sequencing and whole-genome sequencing to detect these medium-rare risk variants, rather than relying on genome-wide association studies (which are usually fine for detecting the higher frequency variants associated with common diseases).

Three of the many projects (one for heart risk and two for diabetes risk) are highlighted in the article:

1.  National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Exome Sequencing Project (ESP)[2]: heart, lung, blood

  • Sequenced 6,700 exomes of European or African descent
  • Majority of variants linked to disease too rare (as low as one variant)
  • Groups of variants in the same gene confirmed link between APOC3 and higher risk for early-onset heart attack
  • No other significant gene variants linked with heart disease

2.  T2D-GENES Consortium: diabetes

Sequenced 5,300 exomes of type 2 diabetes patients and controls from five ancestry groups
SNP in PAX4 gene associated with disease in East Asians
No low-frequency variant with large effect though

3.  GoT2D: diabetes

  • After sequencing 2700 patient’s exomes and whole genome no new rare variants above 1.5% frequency with a strong effect on diabetes risk

A nice article by Dr. Sowmiya Moorthie entitled Involvement of rare variants in common disease can be found at the PGH Foundation site further discusses this conundrum,  and is summarized below:

“Although GWAs have identified many SNPs associated with common disease, they have as yet had little success in identifying the causative genetic variants. Those that have been identified have only a weak effect on disease risk, and therefore only explain a small proportion of the heritable, genetic component of susceptibility to that disease. This has led to the common disease-common variant hypothesis, which predicts that common disease-causing genetic variants exist in all human populations, but each individual variant will necessarily only have a small effect on disease susceptibility (i.e. a low associated relative risk).

An alternative hypothesis is the common disease, many rare variants hypothesis, which postulates that disease is caused by multiple strong-effect variants, each of which is only found in a few individuals. Dickson et al. in a paper in PLoS Biology postulate that these rare variants can be indirectly associated with common variants; they call these synthetic associations and demonstrate how further investigation could help explain findings from GWA studies [Dickson et al. (2010) PLoS Biol. 8(1):e1000294][3].  In simulation experiments, 30% of synthetic associations were caused by the presence of rare causative variants and furthermore, the strength of the association with common variants also increased if the number of rare causative variants increased. “

one_of_many rare variants

Figure from Dr. Moorthie’s article showing the problem of “finding one in many”.

(please   click to enlarge)

Indeed, other examples of such issues concerning gene variant association studies occur with other common diseases such as neurologic diseases and obesity, where it has been difficult to clearly and definitively associate any variant with prediction of risk.

For example, Nuytemans et. al.[4] used exome sequencing to find variants in the vascular protein sorting 3J (VPS35) and eukaryotic transcription initiation factor 4  gamma1 (EIF4G1) genes, tow genes causally linked to Parkinson’s Disease (PD).  Although they identified novel VPS35 variants none of these variants could be correlated to higher risk of PD.   One EIF4G1 variant seemed to be a strong Parkinson’s Disease risk factor however there was “no evidence for an overall contribution of genetic variability in VPS35 or EIF4G1 to PD development”.

These negative results may have relevance as companies such as 23andme ( claim to be able to test for Parkinson’s predisposition.  To see a description of the LLRK2 mutational analysis which they use to determine risk for the disease please see the following link: This company and other like it have been subjects of posts on this site (Personalized Medicine: Clinical Aspiration of Microarrays)

However there seems to be more luck with strategies focused on analyzing intronic sequence rather than exome sequence. Jocelyn Kaiser’s Science article notes this in a brief interview with Harry Dietz of Johns Hopkins University where he suspects that “much of the missing heritability lies in gene-gene interactions”.  Oliver Harismendy and Kelly Frazer and colleagues’ recent publication in Genome Biology support this notion[5].  The authors used targeted resequencing of two endocannabinoid metabolic enzyme genes (fatty-acid-amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoglyceride lipase (MGLL) in 147 normal weight and 142 extremely obese patients.

These patients were enrolled in the CRESCENDO trial and patients analyzed were of European descent. However, instead of just exome sequencing, the group resequenced exome AND intronic sequence, especially focusing on promoter regions.   They identified 1,448 single nucleotide variants but using a statistical filter (called RareCover which is referred to as a collapsing method) they found 4 variants in the promoters and intronic areas of the FAAH and MGLL genes which correlated to body mass index.  It should be noted that anandamide, a substrate for FAAH, is elevated in obese patients. The authors did note some issues though mentioning that “some other loci, more weakly or inconsistently associated in the original GWASs, were not replicated in our samples, which is not too surprising given the sample size of our cohort is inadequate to replicate modest associations”.

PLEASE WATCH VIDEO on the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Exome Sequencing Project


1.            Kaiser J: Human genetics. Genetic influences on disease remain hidden. Science 2012, 338(6110):1016-1017.

2.            Tennessen JA, Bigham AW, O’Connor TD, Fu W, Kenny EE, Gravel S, McGee S, Do R, Liu X, Jun G et al: Evolution and functional impact of rare coding variation from deep sequencing of human exomes. Science 2012, 337(6090):64-69.

3.            Dickson SP, Wang K, Krantz I, Hakonarson H, Goldstein DB: Rare variants create synthetic genome-wide associations. PLoS biology 2010, 8(1):e1000294.

4.            Nuytemans K, Bademci G, Inchausti V, Dressen A, Kinnamon DD, Mehta A, Wang L, Zuchner S, Beecham GW, Martin ER et al: Whole exome sequencing of rare variants in EIF4G1 and VPS35 in Parkinson disease. Neurology 2013, 80(11):982-989.

5.            Harismendy O, Bansal V, Bhatia G, Nakano M, Scott M, Wang X, Dib C, Turlotte E, Sipe JC, Murray SS et al: Population sequencing of two endocannabinoid metabolic genes identifies rare and common regulatory variants associated with extreme obesity and metabolite level. Genome biology 2010, 11(11):R118.

Other posts on this site related to Genomics include:

Cancer Biology and Genomics for Disease Diagnosis

Diagnosis of Cardiovascular Disease, Treatment and Prevention: Current & Predicted Cost of Care and the Promise of Individualized Medicine Using Clinical Decision Support Systems

Ethical Concerns in Personalized Medicine: BRCA1/2 Testing in Minors and Communication of Breast Cancer Risk

Genomics & Genetics of Cardiovascular Disease Diagnoses: A Literature Survey of AHA’s Circulation Cardiovascular Genetics, 3/2010 – 3/2013

Genomics-based cure for diabetes on-the-way

Personalized Medicine: Clinical Aspiration of Microarrays

Late Onset of Alzheimer’s Disease and One-carbon Metabolism

Genetics of Disease: More Complex is How to Creating New Drugs

Genetics of Conduction Disease: Atrioventricular (AV) Conduction Disease (block): Gene Mutations – Transcription, Excitability, and Energy Homeostasis

Centers of Excellence in Genomic Sciences (CEGS): NHGRI to Fund New CEGS on the Brain: Mental Disorders and the Nervous System

Cancer Genomic Precision Therapy: Digitized Tumor’s Genome (WGSA) Compared with Genome-native Germ Line: Flash-frozen specimen and Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded Specimen Needed

Mitochondrial Metabolism and Cardiac Function

Pancreatic Cancer: Genetics, Genomics and Immunotherapy

Issues in Personalized Medicine in Cancer: Intratumor Heterogeneity and Branched Evolution Revealed by Multiregion Sequencing

Quantum Biology And Computational Medicine

Personalized Cardiovascular Genetic Medicine at Partners HealthCare and Harvard Medical School

Centers of Excellence in Genomic Sciences (CEGS): NHGRI to Fund New CEGS on the Brain: Mental Disorders and the Nervous System

LEADERS in Genome Sequencing of Genetic Mutations for Therapeutic Drug Selection in Cancer Personalized Treatment: Part 2

Consumer Market for Personal DNA Sequencing: Part 4

Personalized Medicine: An Institute Profile – Coriell Institute for Medical Research: Part 3

Whole-Genome Sequencing Data will be Stored in Coriell’s Spin off For-Profit Entity


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How Might Sleep Apnea Lead to Serious Health Concerns like Cardiac and Cancer?

Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP  

What is the link between sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease and is the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) by continuous positive airway pressure in patients (CPAP) with heart failure to improve left ventricular systolic function sufficient?  There are statistics incicating the benefit of CPAP and improvement of LVSF in those patients on CPAP with CHF.  But that observation does not get at why the patients benefit, or whether the OSA is sufficient.  Don’t expect a randomized clinical trial of any design to be brought to bear on the subject, considering the ethical issues involved.  We’ll return to that in a moment.
In a recent study researchers in Spain followed thousands of patients at sleep clinics and found that those with the most severe forms of sleep apnea had a 65 percent greater risk of developing cancer of any kind. The second study, of about 1,500 government workers in Wisconsin, showed that those with the most disordered sleep had five times the rate of dying from cancer as people without the sleep disorder (apnea not specified). Both research teams only looked at cancer diagnoses and outcomes in general.  If I lump the two studies, assuming that all patients with the most disordered sleep had OSA and were on CPAP, what does this tell us?  The heart and lung function together as a cardiopulmonary oxygenation unit!  A problem disrupting oxygenation, such as autonomically controlled sleep disruption or, oronasal obstruction (ASSOCIATED WITH SNORING), would be expected to have an effect on alertness during the day, predisposition to CHF from strain on the CP circulation as well as ventilatory impairment and peripheral oxygenation.  It appears that an association with ANY cancer, unspecified, is a long reach.
In both studies the researchers ruled out the possibility that the usual risk factors for cancer, like
  1. age
  2. smoking
  3. alcohol use
  4. physical activity
  5. weight
The association between cancer and disordered breathing at night remained
  • even after they adjusted for confounding variables.
This led to the conclusion that cancer might be linked to (intermittent) lack of oxygen supply interrupting aerobic cell activity over long periods of time.  The conclusion is drawn that from two associations
  • the research on positive outcome from CPAP in OSA and
  • a possible link between breathing and cardiac and cancer clearly
demonstrates the importance of regular breathing exercises (other wise known as ‘Pranayama’ in India) as part of our every day life.
This answers the first observation I posed. That is, the use of CPAP, while enormously important, is not sufficient.  Regular breathing exercises would seem to be helpful, although not a standard part of current treatment. This would be especially important if the movement of the abdominal muscles and diaphragm were synchronized with the expansion of the nthorax for maximum air flow.  This observation is familiar from working with a certified exercise physiologist.   The other part of this is an optimum time for walking and carrying out basic muscle and flexibility exercises several times a week, which has been shown repeatedly by studies on health benefits.
It is not my place to raise some questions about the way the studies were carried out.  The patients who have sleep apnea would be expected to have an increased body mass index (BMI), and while not sarcopenic, more likely to have excess body fat, abdominal distribution in males, and hip distribution in females, amd more importantly, unseen fat in the abdominal peritoneum.  This is related to type 2 diabetes with a metabolic syndrome, a separate indicator of CVD risk.   The metabolic syndrome involves TNF-alpha (once also known as cachexin), IL-1, IL-6, C-reactive protein, and in the case of fat signaling, adipokines, as well as insulin resistance and, as a result, some counter-regulatory secretion of glucocorticosteroids.  This metabolic picture would result in the following:
  1. impaired glucose utilization
  2. some excess and uncompensated gluconeogenesis
  3. the impaired lactate reentry at the end of glycolysis
  4. an effect on allosteric PFK
Features 1-4 look like what Warburg called a Pasteur Effect, not at the clellular level, but in the whole individual.   While obesity and type 2 diabetes are occuring in the young and adolescent population, the consequences might not be seen until years later.  The consequences could be in a middle aged person falling asleep at a meeting, or a series of automabile accidents related to falling asleep at the wheel.
At a time that clinical laboratory measurements are so accurate, and
  • the associations between type 2 diabetes,
  • measurement of wt/ht^2,
  • arm strength,
  • skin fold thickness,

are common measures of fitness, they don’t appear to have any place in these studies. If that is the case, then how is it possible to make sense of a relationship between SEVERITY of sleep disturbance and health outcome.

English: The Cycle of Obstructive Sleep Apnea ...

English: The Cycle of Obstructive Sleep Apnea – OSA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: The graph shows the correlation betwe...

English: The graph shows the correlation between body mass index (BMI) and percent body fat (%BF) for men in NCHS’ NHANES III 1994 data. The body fat percent shown uses the method from Romero-Corral et al. to convert NHANES BIA to %BF (June 2008). “Accuracy of body mass index in diagnosing obesity in the adult general population”. International Journal of Obesity 32 (6) : 959–956. DOI:10.1038/ijo.2008.11. PMID 18283284. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Body mass index, BMI, body size, body...

English: Body mass index, BMI, body size, body weight, mortality Italiano: indice di massa corporea, IMC, altezza corporea, peso corporeo, mortalità (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Italiano: biometria, epidemiologia, rischio, p...

Italiano: biometria, epidemiologia, rischio, peso corporeo umano, mortalità, indice di massa corporea, IMC, body mass index, BMI, prospective studies collaboration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Liver Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and Hepatosteatosis

Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP


1. Absence of adipose triglyceride lipase protects from hepatic endoplasmic reticulum stress in mice.

Fuchs CD, Claudel T, Kumari P, Haemmerle G, et al.
LabExpMol Hepatology, Medical Univ of Graz, Austria.
Hepatology. 2012 Jul;56(1):270-80. Epub 2012 May 29.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is characterized by

  • triglyceride (TG) accumulation and
  • endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress.

Fatty acids (FAs) may trigger ER stress, therefore,

  •  the absence of adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL/PNPLA2)-
    • the main enzyme for intracellular lipolysis,
  • releasing FAs, and
  • closest homolog to adiponutrin (PNPLA3)

recently implicated in the pathogenesis of NAFLD-

  • could protect against hepatic ER stress.

Wild-type (WT) and ATGL knockout (KO) mice

  •  were challenged with tunicamycin (TM) to induce ER stress.

Markers of hepatic

  •  lipid metabolism,
  • ER stress, and
  • inflammation were explored
    • for gene expression by
    •  serum biochemistry,
    • hepatic TG and FA profiles,
    • liver histology,
    • cell-culture experiments were performed in Hepa1.6 cells
  • after the knockdown of ATGL before FA and TM treatment.

TM increased hepatic TG accumulation in ATGL KO, but not in WT mice. Lipogenesis and β-oxidation
were repressed at the gene-expression level
(sterol regulatory element-binding transcription factor 1c,
fatty acid synthase, acetyl coenzyme A carboxylase 2, and carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 alpha) in
both WT and ATGL KO mice. Genes for very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) synthesis (microsomal
triglyceride transfer protein and apolipoprotein B)

  •  were down-regulated by TM in WT
  • and even more in ATGL KO mice,
  • which displayed strongly reduced serum VLDL cholesterol levels.

ER stress markers were induced exclusively in TM-treated WT, but not ATGL KO, mice:

  •  glucose-regulated protein,
  • C/EBP homolog protein,
  • spliced X-box-binding protein,
  • endoplasmic-reticulum-localized DnaJ homolog 4, and
  • inflammatory markers Tnfα and iNos.

Total hepatic FA profiling revealed a higher palmitic acid/oleic acid (PA/OA) ratio in WT mice.
Phosphoinositide-3-kinase inhibitor-

  • known to be involved in FA-derived ER stress and
  • blocked by OA-
  • was increased in TM-treated WT mice only.

In line with this, in vitro OA protected hepatocytes from TM-induced ER stress. Lack of ATGL may protect from
hepatic ER stress through alterations in FA composition. ATGL could constitute a new therapeutic strategy
to target ER stress in NAFLD.
PMID: 22271167 Diabetes Obes Metab. 2010 Oct;12 Suppl 2:83-92.

2. Hepatic steatosis: a role for de novo lipogenesis and the transcription factor SREBP-1c.
Ferré P, Foufelle F. INSERM, and Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris, Paris, France.    PMID: 21029304

Excessive availability of plasma fatty acids and lipid synthesis from glucose (lipogenesis) are important determinants of steatosis.
Lipogenesis is an insulin- and glucose-dependent process that is under the control of specific transcription factors,

Insulin induces the maturation of SREBP-1c in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).

  • SREBP-1c in turn activates glycolytic gene expression,
    • allowing glucose metabolism, and
    • lipogenic genes in conjunction with ChREBP.

Lipogenesis activation in the liver of obese markedly insulin-resistant steatotic rodents is then paradoxical.
It appears the activation of SREBP-1c and thus of lipogenesis is

  •  secondary in the steatotic liver to an ER stress.

The ER stress activates the

  •  cleavage of SREBP-1c independent of insulin,
  • explaining the paradoxical stimulation of lipogenesis
  • in an insulin-resistant liver.

Inhibition of the ER stress in obese rodents

  •  decreases SREBP-1c activation and lipogenesis and
  • improves markedly hepatic steatosis and insulin sensitivity.
  • ER is thus worth considering as a potential therapeutic target for steatosis and metabolic syndrome.

3. SREBP-1c transcription factor and lipid homeostasis: clinical perspective
Ferré P, Foufelle F
Inserm, Centre de Recherches Biomédicales des Cordeliers, Paris, France.
Horm Res. 2007;68(2):72-82. Epub 2007 Mar 5. PMID:17344645

Insulin has long-term effects on glucose and lipid metabolism through its control on the expression of specific genes.
In insulin sensitive tissues and particularly in the liver,

  •  the transcription factor sterol regulatory element binding protein-1c (SREBP-1c) transduces the insulin signal, which is
  • synthetized as a precursor in the membranes of the endoplasmic reticulum
  • which requires post-translational modification to yield its transcriptionally active nuclear form.

Insulin activates the transcription and the proteolytic maturation of SREBP-1c, which induces the

  •  expression of a family of genes
  • involved in glucose utilization and fatty acid synthesis and
  • can be considered as a thrifty gene.

Since a high lipid availability is

  •  deleterious for insulin sensitivity and secretion,
  • a role for SREBP-1c in dyslipidaemia and type 2 diabetes
  • has been considered in genetic studies.

SREBP-1c could also participate in

  •  hepatic steatosis observed in humans
  • related to alcohol consumption and
  • hyperhomocysteinemia
  • concomitant with a ER-stress and
  • insulin-independent SREBP-1c activation.

4. Hepatic steatosis: a role for de novo lipogenesis and the transcription factor SREBP-1c
Ferré P, Foufelle F
INSERM, Centre de Recherches des Cordeliers and Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris, Paris, France.
Diabetes Obes Metab. 2010 Oct;12 Suppl 2:83-92. PMID: 21029304

Lipogenesis in liver steatosis is

  •  an insulin- and glucose-dependent process
  • under the control of specific transcription factors,
  • sterol regulatory element binding protein 1c (SREBP-1c),
  • activated by insulin and carbohydrate response element binding protein (ChREBP)

Insulin induces the maturation of SREBP-1c in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).
SREBP-1c in turn activates glycolytic gene expression, allowing –

  •  glucose metabolism in conjunction with ChREBP.

activation of SREBP-1c and lipogenesis is secondary in the steatotic liver to ER stress, which

  •  activates the cleavage of SREBP-1c independent of insulin,
  • explaining the stimulation of lipogenesis in an insulin-resistant liver.
  • Inhibition of the ER stress in obese rodents decreases SREBP-1c activation and improves
  • hepatic steatosis and insulin sensitivity.

ER is thus a new partner in steatosis and metabolic syndrome

5. Pharmacologic ER stress induces non-alcoholic steatohepatitis in an animal model
Jin-Sook Leea, Ze Zhenga, R Mendeza, Seung-Wook Hac, et al.
Wayne State University SOM, Detroit, MI
Toxicology Letters 20 May 2012; 211(1):29–38

Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress refers to a condition of

  •  accumulation of unfolded or misfolded proteins in the ER lumen, which is known to
  • activate an intracellular stress signaling termed
  • Unfolded Protein Response (UPR).

A number of pharmacologic reagents or pathophysiologic stimuli

  •  can induce ER stress and activation of the UPR signaling,
  • leading to alteration of cell physiology that is
  • associated with the initiation and progression of a variety of diseases.

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), characterized by hepatic steatosis and inflammation, has been considered the
precursor or the hepatic manifestation of metabolic disease. In this study, we delineated the

  • toxic effect and molecular basis
  • by which pharmacologic ER stress,
  • induced by a bacterial nucleoside antibiotic tunicamycin (TM),
  • promotes NASH in an animal model.

Mice of C57BL/6J strain background were challenged with pharmacologic ER stress by intraperitoneal injection of TM. Upon TM injection,

  •  mice exhibited a quick NASH state characterized by
  • hepatic steatosis and inflammation.

TM-treated mice exhibited an increase in –

  •  hepatic triglycerides (TG) and a –
  • decrease in plasma lipids, including
  • plasma TG,
  • plasma cholesterol,
  • high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and
  • low-density lipoprotein (LDL),

In response to TM challenge,

  •  cleavage of sterol responsive binding protein (SREBP)-1a and SREBP-1c,
  •  the key trans-activators for lipid and sterol biosynthesis,
  • was dramatically increased in the liver.

Consistent with the hepatic steatosis phenotype, expression of

  •  some key regulators and enzymes in de novo lipogenesis and lipid droplet formation was up-regulated,
  • while expression of those involved in lipolysis and fatty acid oxidation was down-regulated
  • in the liver of mice challenged with TM.

TM treatment also increased phosphorylation of NF-κB inhibitors (IκB),

  •  leading to the activation of NF-κB-mediated inflammatory pathway in the liver.

Our study not only confirmed that pharmacologic ER stress is a strong “hit” that triggers NASH, but also demonstrated

  •  crucial molecular links between ER stress,
  • lipid metabolism, and
  • inflammation in the liver in vivo.

► Pharmacologic ER stress induced by tunicamycin (TM) induces a quick NASH state in vivo.
► TM leads to dramatic increase in cleavage of sterol regulatory element-binding protein in the liver.
► TM up-regulates lipogenic genes, but down-regulates the genes in lipolysis and FA oxidation.
► TM activates NF-κB and expression of genes encoding pro-inflammatory cytokines in the liver.
ER, endoplasmic reticulum; TM, tunicamycin; NASH, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis; NAFLD,
non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; TG, triglycerides; SREBP, sterol responsive binding protein;
NF-κB, activation of nuclear factor-kappa B; IκB, NF-κB inhibitor
Keywords: ER stress; Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis; Tunicamycin; Lipid metabolism; Hepatic inflammation
Figures and tables from this article:

Fig. 1. TM challenge alters lipid profiles and causes hepatic steatosis in mice. (A) Quantitative real-time RT-PCR analysis of liver mRNA isolated from mice challenged with TM or vehicle control. Total liver mRNA was isolated at 8 h or 30 h after injection with vehicle or TM (2 μg/g body weight) for real-time RT-PCR analysis. Expression values were normalized to β-actin mRNA levels. Fold changes of mRNA are shown by comparing to one of the control mice. Each bar denotes the mean ± SEM (n = 4 mice per group); **P < 0.01. Edem1, ER degradation enhancing, mannosidase alpha-like 1. (B) Oil-red O staining of lipid droplets in the livers of the mice challenged with TM or vehicle control (magnification: 200×). (C) Levels of TG in the liver tissues of the mice challenged with TM or vehicle control. (D) Levels of plasma lipids in the mice challenged with TM or vehicle control. TG, triglycerides; TC, total plasma cholesterol; HDL, high-density lipoproteins; VLDL/LDL, very low and low density lipoproteins. For C and D, each bar denotes mean ± SEM (n = 4 mice per group); *P < 0.05; **P < 0.01.

 F options

Fig. 2. TM challenge leads to a quick NASH state in mice. (A) Histological examination of liver tissue sections of the mice challenged with TM (2 μg/g body weight) or vehicle control. Upper panel, hematoxylin–eosin (H&E) staining of liver tissue sections; the lower panel, Sirius staining of collagen deposition of liver tissue sections (magnification: 200×). (B) Histological scoring for NASH activities in the livers of the mice treated with TM or vehicle control. The grade scores were calculated based on the scores of steatosis, hepatocyte ballooning, lobular and portal inflammation, and Mallory bodies. The stage scores were based on the liver fibrosis. Number of mice examined is given in parentheses. Mean ± SEM values are shown. P-values were calculated by Mann–Whitney U-test.

Fig. 3. TM challenge significantly increases levels of cleaved/activated forms of SREBP1a and SREBP1c in the liver. Western blot analysis of protein levels of SREBP1a (A) and SREBP1c (B) in the liver tissues from the mice challenged with TM (2 μg/g body weight) or vehicle control. Levels of GAPDH were included as internal controls. For A and B, the values below the gels represent the ratios of mature/cleaved SREBP signal intensities to that of SREBP precursors. The graph beside the images showed the ratios of mature/cleaved SREBP to precursor SREBP in the liver of mice challenged with TM or vehicle. The protein signal intensities shown by Western blot analysis were quantified by NIH imageJ software. Each bar represents the mean ± SEM (n = 3 mice per group); **P < 0.01. SREBP-p, SREBP precursor; SREBP-m, mature/cleaved SREBP.

Fig. 4. TM challenge up-regulates expression of genes involved in lipogenesis but down-regulates expression of genes involved in lipolysis and FA oxidation. Quantitative real-time RT-PCR analysis of liver mRNAs isolated from the mice challenged with TM (2 μg/g body weight) or vehicle control, which encode regulators or enzymes in: (A) de novo lipogenesis: PGC1α, PGC1β, DGAT1 and DGAT2; (B) lipid droplet production: ADRP, FIT2, and FSP27; (C) lipolysis: ApoC2, Acox1, and LSR; and (D) FA oxidation: PPARα. Expression values were normalized to β-actin mRNA levels. Fold changes of mRNA are shown by comparing to one of the control mice. Each bar denotes the mean ± SEM (n = 4 mice per group); **P < 0.01. (E and F) Isotope tracing analysis of hepatic de novo lipogenesis. Huh7 cells were incubated with [1-14C] acetic acid for 6 h (E) or 12 h (F) in the presence or absence of TM (20 μg/ml). The rates of de novo lipogenesis were quantified by determining the amounts of [1-14C]-labeled acetic acid incorporated into total cellular lipids after normalization to cell numbers.

Fig. 5. TM activates the inflammatory pathway through NF-κB, but not JNK, in the liver. Western blot analysis of phosphorylated Iκ-B, total Iκ-B, phosphorylated JNK, and total JNK in the liver tissues from the mice challenged with TM (2 μg/g body weight) or vehicle control. Levels of GAPDH were included as internal controls. The values below the gels represent the ratios of phosphorylated protein signal intensities to that of total proteins.

Fig. 6. TM induces expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and acute-phase responsive proteins in the liver. Quantitative real-time RT-PCR analyses of liver mRNAs isolated from the mice challenged with TM (2 μg/g body weight) or vehicle control, which encode: (A) pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFα and IL6; and (B) acute-phase protein SAP and SAA3. Expression values were normalized to β-actin mRNA levels. Fold changes of mRNA are shown by comparing to one of the control mice. (C–E) ELISA analyses of serum levels of TNFα, IL6, and SAP in the mice challenged with TM or vehicle control for 8 h ELISA. Each bar denotes the mean ± SEM (n = 4 mice per group); *P < 0.05, **P < 0.01.

Corresponding author at: Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Wayne State University School of Medicine, 540 E. Canfield Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201, USA. Tel.: +1 313 577 2669; fax: +1 313 577 5218.

The SREBP regulatory pathway. Brown MS, Goldst...

The SREBP regulatory pathway. Brown MS, Goldstein JL (1997). “The SREBP pathway: regulation of cholesterol metabolism by proteolysis of a membrane-bound transcription factor”. Cell 89 (3) : 331–340. doi:10.1016/S0092-8674(00)80213-5. PMID 9150132. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Structure of the SREBF1 protein. Base...

English: Structure of the SREBF1 protein. Based on PyMOL rendering of PDB 1am9. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The SREBP regulatory pathway

The SREBP regulatory pathway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Diagram of rough endoplasmic reticulu...

English: Diagram of rough endoplasmic reticulum by Ruth Lawson, Otago Polytechnic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Micrograph demonstrating marked (macrovesicula...

Micrograph demonstrating marked (macrovesicular) steatosis in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Masson’s trichrome stain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Author and Curator: Ritu Saxena, Ph.D.

Consultants: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN and Pnina G. Abir-Am, PhD


Section I   : Mitochondrial diseases and molecular understanding

Section II  : Diagnosis and therapy of mitochondrial diseases

Section III: Mitochondria, metabolic syndrome and research


Mitochondrial cytopathy in adults – current understanding:

Mitochondrial cytopathies are a diverse group of inherited and acquired disorders that result in inadequate energy production leading to illnesses. Several syndromes have been linked to mutations in mitochondrial DNA. Some key features common to mitochondrial diseases are listed as follows:

  • Diverse manifestations of mitochondrial diseases: Although all mitochondrial diseases have the same characteristic of inadequate energy production as compared to the demand, they seem to show diverse manifestations in the form of organs being affected, age of onset and the rate of progression. Reason lies in the unique genetic makeup of mitochondria. The percentage of mtDNA carrying defects varies when the ovum divides and one daughter cells receiving more defective mtDNA and the other receiving less. Hence, successive divisions may lead to accumulation of defects in one of the developing organs or tissues. Since the process in which defective mtDNA becomes concentrated in an organ is random, this may account for the differing manifestations among patients with the same genetic defect. Also, somatic mutations and mutations occurring as a result of exposure to environmental toxins may cause mitochondrial diseases.

As stated by Robert K. Naviaux, founder and co-director of the Mitochondrial and Metabolic Disease Center (MMDC) at the University of California, San Diego;  

“It is a hallmark of mitochondrial diseases that identical mtDNA mutations may not produce identical diseases…the converse is also true, different mutations can lead to the same diseases.”

  • Postmitotic tissues are more vulnerable to mitochondrial diseases: Postmitotic tissues such as those in the brain, muscles, nerves, retinas, and kidneys, are vulnerable for several reasons. Apart from the fact that these tissues have high-energy demands, healthier neighboring cells unlike that observed in skin cannot replace the diseased cells. Thus, mutations in mtDNA accumulate over a period of time resulting in progressive dysfunction of individual cells and hence the organ itself.
  • High rate of mtDNA mutation: MtDNA mutates at rate that is six-seven times higher than the rate of mutation of nuclear DNA. First reason is the absence of histones on mtDNA and second is the exposure of mtDNA to free radicals due to their close proximity to electron transport chain. Additionally, lack of DNA repair enzymes results in mutant tRNA, rRNA and protein transcripts

Spectrum of mitochondrial diseases:

Following is the list of mitochondrial diseases occurring as a result of either mtDNA mutations, alteration in mitochondrial function or those diseases that sometimes might be associated with mitochondrial dysfunction.

  • Disorders associated with mtDNA mutations-

MELAS, MERRF, NARP, Myoneurogastrointestinal disorder and encephalopathy (MNGIE), Pearson Marrow syndrome Kearns-Sayre-CPEO, Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON), Aminoglycoside-associated deafness, Diabetes with deafness

  • Mendelian disorders of mitochondrial function related to fuel homeostasis-

Luft disease, Leigh syndrome (Complex I, COX, PDH), Alpers Disease, MCAD, SCAD, SCHAD, VLCAD, LCHAD, Glutaric aciduria II, Lethal infantile cardiomyopathy, Friedreich ataxia, Maturity onset diabetes of young Malignant hyperthermia, Disorders of ketone utilization, mtDNA depletion syndrome, Reversible COX deficiency of infancy, Various defects of the Krebs Cycle, Pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency, Pyruvate carboxylase deficiency, Fumarase deficiency, Carnitine palmitoyl transferase deficiency

  • Disorders sometimes associated with mitochondrial function-

Hemochromatosis, Wilson disease, Batten disease, Huntington disease, Menkes disease, Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, Aging, Type II diabetes mellitus, Atherosclerotic heart disease, Parkinson disease, Alzheimer dementia, Congestive heart failure, Niacin-responsive hypercholesterolemia, Postpartum cardiomyopathy, Alcoholic myopathy, Cancer metastasis, Irritable bowel syndrome Gastroparesis-GI dysmotility, Multiple sclerosis, Systemic lupus erythematosis, Rheumatoid arthritis.



Owing to the diversity of symptoms, there is no accepted criterion for diagnosis. Also, due to overlapping symptoms of several diseases with those of mitochondrial dysfunction illnesses, it is important to evaluate the patient for other conditions. A diagnosis could involve combination of molecular genetic, pathologic, or biochemical data in a patient who has clinical features consistent with the diagnosis including mutational analysis on blood lymphocytes and possibly muscle biopsy for visual and biochemical analysis.

The two main biochemical features in most mtDNA disorders are:

  1. Respiratory chain deficiency and
  2. Lactic acidosis.

Skeletal muscle is chosen to study the pathogenic consequence of mtDNA mutations because of the formation of ragged-red fibers (RRF) through mitochondrial proliferation and massive mitochondrial accumulation in many pathogenic situations. RRF can be detected in two ways. Mitochondrial fibers in a subset of these fibers are shown by red or purple stained area by Gomori trichrome stain; the normal or less-affected fibers stain blue or turquoise. Deep purple areas show accumulations of mitochondria as activity of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) in the case of mitochondrial mutation.

The primary care physician should remember this relatively simple rule of thumb: “When a common disease has features that set it apart from the pack, or involves 3 or more organ systems, think mitochondria.”


There are no cures for mitochondrial diseases; therefore, the treatment is focused on alleviating symptoms and enabling normal functioning of the affected organs. Most patients have used cofactor and vitamins; however, there is no overwhelming evidence that they are helpful in most patients.

  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is the best-known cofactor used in treating mitochondrial cytopathies with no known side effects. CoQ10, residing in the inner mitochondrial membrane, functions as the mobile electron carrier and is a powerful antioxidant with benefits such as reduction in lactic acid levels, improved muscle strength, decreased muscle fatigue and so on.
  • Levocarnitine (L-carnitine, carnitine), is a cofactor required for the metabolism of fatty acids. Levocarnitine therapy improves strength, reversal of cardiomyopathy, and improved gastrointestinal motility, which can be a major benefit to those with poor motility due to their disease. Intestinal cramping and pain are the major side effects.
  • Creatine phosphate, synthesized from creatine can accumulate in small amounts in the body, and can act as storage for a high-energy phosphate bond. Muscular creatine may be depleted in mitochondrial cytopathy, and supplemental creatine phosphate has been shown to be helpful in some patients with weakness due to their disease.
  • B Vitamin, are necessary for the function of several enzymes associated with energy production. The need for supplemental B vitamin therapy is not proven, aside from rare cases of thiamine (vitamin B1)-responsive pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency.

Research – Restriction enzyme for gene therapy of Mitochondria diseases:

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is the only extrachromosomal DNA in humans and defects in this genome are now recognized as important causes of various diseases. Presently, there is no effective treatment for patients suffering from diseases that harbor mutations in mtDNA.

Tanaka et al discovered a gene therapy method to treat a mitochondrial disease associated with mtDNA heteroplasmy. Heteroplasmy is where mutant and wild-type mtDNA molecules co-exist within cells. This syndrome of neurogenic muscle weakness, ataxia and retinitis pigmentosa (NARP) is caused by mutations in mtDNA leading to amino acid replacement in the resulting protein that codes for a subunit of mitochondrial ATP synthase. Level of mutant mtDNA is crucial for the disease as above a certain threshold level of mtDNA, the disease becomes biochemically and clinically apparent. Authors hypothesized that a possible method to treat patients was by selectively destroying mutant mtDNA, thereby only allowing propagation of wild-type mtDNA. Since restriction endonucleases can recognize highly specific sequences, they were utilized for gene therapy. Tanaka et al utilized Sma1, a restriction endonuclease to destroy mutant mtDNA, leading to increase in wild-type mtDNA levels.

Thus, authors concluded, “ the present results indicate that the use of a mitochondrion-targeted restriction enzyme which specifically recognizes a mutant mtDNA provides a novel strategy for gene therapy of mitochondrial diseases.”



Mitochondria are double-membrane organelles located in the cytoplasm and often referred to as the “powerhouse” of the cell. In simple terms, they convert energy into forms that are usable by the cell. Mitochondria are semi-autonomous in that they are only partially dependent on the cell to replicate and grow. They have their own DNA, ribosomes, and can make their own proteins. They are the sites of cellular respiration that generates fuel for the cell’s activities. Mitochondria are also involved in other cell processes such as cell division, cellular growth and cell death. Multiple essential cellular functions are mediated by thousands of mitochondrial-specific proteins, encoded by both the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes.

Interestingly, mitochondria take on many different shapes and along with serving several different metabolic functions. In fact, each mitochondrion’s shape is characteristic of the specialized cell in which it resides. The number of mitochondria too varies in difference cell types, with as high as 500-2000 in some nucleated cells and as low as zero in RBCs and 2-6 in platelets.

The standard sequence to which all human mtNDNA is compared is referred to as the “Cambridge Sequence.” It was sequenced from several different human mtDNAs by a Medical Research Council (MRC) labora- tory based at Cambridge, UK, in 1981 and as a part of this work, Fred Sanger, the received his second Nobel Prize. Several variations in the form of polymorphisms are observed from the Cambridge sequence in the mtDNA of different individuals.

Metabolic syndrome:

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist or abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Metabolic syndrome is becoming more and more common in the United States. In the future, it may overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease. In general, a person who has metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes as someone who doesn’t have metabolic syndrome.

The five conditions described below are metabolic risk factors. You must have at least three metabolic risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

  • A large waistline. This also is called abdominal obesity or “having an apple shape.” Excess fat in the stomach area is a greater risk factor for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body, such as on the hips.
  • A high triglyceride level (or you’re on medicine to treat high triglycerides). Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
  • A low HDL cholesterol level (or you’re on medicine to treat low HDL cholesterol). HDL sometimes is called “good” cholesterol. This is because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.
  • High blood pressure (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood pressure). Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage your heart and lead to plaque buildup.
  • High fasting blood sugar (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood sugar). Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

Role of Mitochondria in Metabolic Syndrome & Diabetes:

Impaired mitochondrial function has recently emerged as a potential causes of insulin resistance and/or diabetes progression, risk factors of metabolic syndrome.

Mitochondria plays several key functions including generation of ATP, and generating metabolites via Tricarboxylic acid cycle that function in cytosolic pathways, oxidative catabolism of amino acids, ketogenesis, urea cycle; the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS); the control of cytoplasmic calcium; and the synthesis of all cellular Fe/S clusters, protein cofactors essential for cellular functions such as protein translation and DNA repair. These roles define the mitochondria to be involved in metabolic homeostasis and hence, a major candidate for metabolic syndrome and its associated risk factor including diabetes, obesity and insulin resistance.

Research and Therapeutic relevance:

Understanding the underlying molecular mechanism of aberrant role of mitochondria is important in developing therapeutic agents for mitochondria-associated diseases. In the recent issue of Mitonews, several papers have been published using the products of MitoSciences, which describe research pertaining to the importance of mitochondria in obesity and diabetes. Some recent research articles based on mitochondrial research (also mentioned in MitoNews) have been briefly discussed here:

  • Metabolic inflexibility and Metabolic syndrome: Metabolic inflexibility is defined as the failure of insulin-resistant patients to appropriately adjust mitochondrial fuel selection in response to nutritional cues. Although the phenomenon has been emphasized an important aspect of metabolic syndrome, the molecular mechanisms have not yet been fully deciphered. In a recent article by Muoio et al, published in Cell Metabolism journal, essential role of the mitochondrial matrix enzyme, carnitine acetyltransferase (CrAT) has been identified in regulating substrate switching and glucose tolerance. CrAT regulates mitochondrial and intracellular Carbon trafficking by converting acetyl-CoA to its membrane permeant acetylcarnitine ester. Using muscle muscle-specific Crat knockout mice, primary human skeletal myocytes, and human subjects undergoing L-carnitine supplementation, authors have suggested a model wherein CrAT combats nutrient stress, promotes metabolic flexibility, and enhances insulin action by permitting mitochondrial efflux of excess acetyl moieties that otherwise inhibit key regulatory enzymes such as pyruvate dehydrogenase. These findings offer therapeutically relevant insights into the molecular basis of metabolic inflexibility.
  • Rosiglitazone and obesity: Eepicardial adipose tissue (EAT) has been described in humans as a functioning brown adipose tissue (BAT) and has been shown in animal models to have a lower glucose oxidation rate and higher fatty acid (FA) metabolism. In obese individuals, epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) is “hypertrophied”. EAT is a source of BAT may be a source of proinflamatory cytokines. Distel et al published their studies using a rat model of obesity and insulin resistance treated with rosiglitazone. They observed that rosiglitazone, promoted a BAT phenotype in the EAT depot characterized by an increase in the expression levels of genes encoding proteins involved in mitochondrial processing and density PPARγ coactivator 1 alpha (PGC-1α), NADH dehydrogenase 1 and cytochrome oxidase (COX4) resulting in significant up-regulation of PGC1-α and COX4 protein. The authors concluded that PPAR-γ agonist could induce a rapid browning of the EAT that probably contributes to the increase in lipid turnover. Thus, important insights into the mechanism of fat metabolism and involvement of mitochondrial proteins with a therapy were presented in the article.
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction and diabetic neuropathy: Animal models of diabetic neuropathy show that mitochondrial dysfunction occurs in sensory neurons that may contribute to distal axonopathy. The adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator-1α (PGC-1α) signalling axis senses the metabolic demands of cells and regulates mitochondrial function. Studies in muscle, liver and cardiac tissues have shown that the activity of AMPK and PGC-1α is decreased under hyperglycaemia. Chowdhury et al using type 1 and type 2 diabetic rat and mice models studied the hypothesis that deficits in AMPK/PGC-1 signalling in sensory neurons underlie impaired axonal plasticity, suboptimal mitochondrial function and development of neuropathy. The authors have shown there is a significant reduction in phospho-AMPK, phopho-ACC, total PGC-1α, NDUFS3and COXIV in sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglia of 14 week old diabetic mice with marked signs of thermal hypoalgesia. These results were associated with an impaired neuronal bioenergetic profile and a decrease in the activity of mitochondrial complex I, complex IV and citrate synthase. The fact that resveratrol treatment reversed the changes observed in vitro and in vivo suggest that the development of distal axonopathy in diabetic neuropathy is linked to nutrient excess and mitochondrial dysfunction via defective signalling of the AMPK/PGC-1α pathway.
  • ROS and diabetes: Mitochondria generated reactive oxygen species (ROS) has been associated with kidney damage occurring in diabetes. Rosca et al, published an article investigating the source and site of ROS production by kidney cortical tubule mitochondria in streptozotocin-induced type 1 diabetes in rats. The authors observed that in diabetic mitochondria, the fatty acid oxidation enzymes were elevated with increased oxidative phosphorylation and increased ROS production. The authors observed ROS production with fatty acid oxidation remained unchanged by limiting electron flow in ETC complexes, changes in ETC substrate processing and that the ROS supported by pyruvate also remained unaltered. The authors hence concluded that mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation is the source of increased ROS production in kidney cortical tubules in early diabetes


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