The gut-brain axis is involved in metabolic homeostasis through optimization of nutrient absorption and appetite regulation, and encompasses a two-way communication between the gastrointestinal tract and neural circuits in the brain. An important feature of this axis is the secretion of gut-derived peptide hormones which signal energy status to the brain, provoking adaptive behaviors such as food intake or satiation. However, the major integrator of gut signals, the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus, is protected by blood-brain barrier, an obstacle to free diffusion of circulating molecules. The aim of this chapter is to therefore review and summarize recent findings regarding the mechanisms underlying entry of gastrointestinal tract hormones into the central nervous system, and identify how these become dysregulated in socioeconomically-costly metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Traumatic brain injury is a leading cause of hypopituitarism, which compromises patients' recovery, quality of life, and life span. To date, there are no means other than standardized animal studies to provide insights into the mechanisms of posttraumatic hypopituitarism. We have found that GH levels were impaired after inducing a controlled cortical impact (CCI) in mice. Furthermore, GHRH stimulation enhanced GH to lower level in injured than in control or sham mice. Because many characteristics were unchanged in the pituitary glands of CCI mice, we looked for changes at the hypothalamic level. Hypertrophied astrocytes were seen both within the arcuate nucleus and the median eminence, two pivotal structures of the GH axis, spatially remote to the injury site. In the arcuate nucleus, GHRH neurons were unaltered. In the median eminence, injured mice exhibited unexpected alterations. First, the distributions of claudin-1 and zonula occludens-1 between tanycytes were disorganized, suggesting tight junction disruptions. Second, endogenous IgG was increased in the vicinity of the third ventricle, suggesting abnormal barrier properties after CCI. Third, intracerebroventricular injection of a fluorescent-dextran derivative highly stained the hypothalamic parenchyma only after CCI, demonstrating an increased permeability of the third ventricle edges. This alteration of the third ventricle might jeopardize the communication between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. In conclusion, the phenotype of CCI mice had similarities to the posttraumatic hypopituitarism seen in humans with intact pituitary gland and pituitary stalk. It is the first report of a pathological status in which tanycyte dysfunctions appear as a major acquired syndrome.
The human pituitary gland may be the size of a pea, but it punches well above its weight due to secretion of hormones that regulate essential homeostatic processes ranging from growth to stress. Recent advances in imaging and genetics have allowed large-scale interrogation of pituitary structure and function, and in doing so, have revealed that output relies on its organisation into highly plastic networks.
Sox2(+) adult mouse pituitary cells can self-renew and terminally differentiate in vitro, but their physiological role in vivo and possible contribution to oncogenesis remain largely unknown. Using genetic lineage tracing, we show here that the Sox2(+) cell compartment of both the embryonic and adult pituitary contains stem/progenitor cells that are able to differentiate into all hormone-producing lineages and contribute to organ homeostasis during postnatal life. In addition, we show that targeted expression of oncogenic ?-catenin in Sox2(+) cells gives rise to pituitary tumors, but, unexpectedly, the tumor mass is not derived from the Sox2(+) mutation-sustaining cells, suggesting a paracrine role of Sox2(+) cells in pituitary oncogenesis. Our data therefore provide in vivo evidence of a role for Sox2(+) stem/progenitor cells in long-term physiological maintenance of the adult pituitary, and highlight an unexpected non-cell-autonomous role for these cells in the induction of pituitary tumors.
Tuberoinfundibular dopamine (TIDA) neurons are the central regulators of prolactin (PRL) secretion. Their extensive functional plasticity allows a change from low PRL secretion in the non-pregnant state to the condition of hyperprolactinemia that characterizes lactation. To allow this rise in PRL, TIDA neurons are thought to become unresponsive to PRL at lactation and functionally silenced. Here we show that, contrary to expectations, the electrical properties of the system were not modified during lactation and that the neurons remained electrically responsive to a PRL stimulus, with PRL inducing an acute increase in their firing rate during lactation that was identical to that seen in non-pregnant mice. Furthermore, we show a long-term organization of TIDA neuron electrical activity with an harmonization of their firing rates, which remains intact during lactation. However, PRL-induced secretion of dopamine (DA) at the median eminence was strongly blunted during lactation, at least in part attributable to lack of phosphorylation of tyrosine hydroxylase, the key enzyme involved in DA synthesis. We therefore conclude that lactation, rather than involving electrical silencing of TIDA neurons, represents a condition of decoupling between electrical activity at the cell body and DA secretion at the median eminence.
To maintain homeostasis, hypothalamic neurons in the arcuate nucleus must dynamically sense and integrate a multitude of peripheral signals. Blood-borne molecules must therefore be able to circumvent the tightly sealed vasculature of the blood-brain barrier to rapidly access their target neurons. However, how information encoded by circulating appetite-modifying hormones is conveyed to central hypothalamic neurons remains largely unexplored. Using in vivo multiphoton microscopy together with fluorescently labeled ligands, we demonstrate that circulating ghrelin, a versatile regulator of energy expenditure and feeding behavior, rapidly binds neurons in the vicinity of fenestrated capillaries, and that the number of labeled cell bodies varies with feeding status. Thus, by virtue of its vascular connections, the hypothalamus is able to directly sense peripheral signals, modifying energy status accordingly.
The cyclic peptide Melanin Concentrating Hormone (MCH) is known to control a large number of brain functions in mammals such as food intake and metabolism, stress response, anxiety, sleep/wake cycle, memory, and reward. Based on neuro-anatomical and electrophysiological studies these functions were attributed to neuronal circuits expressing MCHR1, the single MCH receptor in rodents. In complement to our recently published work (1) we provided here new data regarding the action of MCH on ependymocytes in the mouse brain. First, we establish that MCHR1 mRNA is expressed in the ependymal cells of the third ventricle epithelium. Second, we demonstrated a tonic control of MCH-expressing neurons on ependymal cilia beat frequency using in vitro optogenics. Finally, we performed in vivo measurements of CSF flow using fluorescent micro-beads in wild-type and MCHR1-knockout mice. Collectively, our results demonstrated that MCH-expressing neurons modulate ciliary beating of ependymal cells at the third ventricle and could contribute to maintain cerebro-spinal fluid homeostasis.
The pulsatile secretion of hormones from the mammalian pituitary gland drives a wide range of homeostatic responses by dynamically altering the functional set-point of effector tissues. To accomplish this, endocrine cell populations residing within the intact pituitary display large-scale changes in coordinated calcium-spiking activity in response to various hypothalamic and peripheral inputs. Although the pituitary gland is structurally compartmentalized into specific and intermingled endocrine cell networks, providing a clear morphological basis for such coordinated activity, the mechanisms which facilitate the timely propagation of information between cells in situ remain largely unexplored. Therefore, the aim of the current review is to highlight the range of signalling modalities known to be employed by endocrine cells to coordinate intracellular calcium rises, and discuss how these mechanisms are integrated at the population level to orchestrate cell function and tissue output.
The secretion of endocrine hormones from pituitary cells finely regulates a multitude of homeostatic processes. To dynamically adapt to changing physiological status and environmental stimuli, the pituitary gland must undergo marked structural and functional plasticity. Endocrine cell plasticity is thought to primarily rely on variations in cell proliferation and size. However, cell motility, a process commonly observed in a variety of tissues during development, may represent an additional mechanism to promote plasticity within the adult pituitary gland. To investigate this, we used multiphoton time-lapse imaging methods, GH-enhanced green fluorescent protein transgenic mice and sexual dimorphism of the GH axis as a model of divergent tissue demand. Using these methods to acutely (12 h) track cell dynamics, we report that ovariectomy induces a dramatic and dynamic increase in cell motility, which is associated with gross GH-cell network remodeling. These changes can be prevented by estradiol supplementation and are associated with enhanced network connectivity as evidenced by increased coordinated GH-cell activity during multicellular calcium recordings. Furthermore, cell motility appears to be sex-specific, because reciprocal alterations are not detected in males after castration. Therefore, GH-cell motility appears to play an important role in the structural and functional pituitary plasticity, which is evoked in response to changing estradiol concentrations in the female.
The pituitary gland has long been considered to be a random patchwork of hormone-producing cells. By using pituitary-scale tridimensional imaging for two of the least abundant cell lineages, the corticotropes and gonadotropes, we have now uncovered highly organized and interdigitated cell networks that reflect homotypic and heterotypic interactions between cells. Although newly differentiated corticotrope cells appear on the ventral surface of the gland, they rapidly form homotypic strands of cells that extend from the lateral tips of the anterior pituitary along its ventral surface and into the medial gland. As the corticotrope network is established away from the microvasculature, cell morphology changes from rounded, to polygonal, and finally to cells with long cytoplasmic processes or cytonemes that connect corticotropes to the perivascular space. Gonadotropes differentiate later and are positioned in close proximity to corticotropes and capillaries. Blockade of corticotrope terminal differentiation produced by knockout of the gene encoding the transcription factor Tpit results in smaller gonadotropes within an expanded cell network, particularly in the lateral gland. Thus, pituitary-scale tridimensional imaging reveals highly structured cell networks of unique topology for each pituitary lineage. The sequential development of interdigitated cell networks during organogenesis indicate that extensive cell:cell interactions lead to a highly ordered cell positioning rather than random patchwork.
During gestation, parturition, and lactation, the endocrine axis of the dam must continually adapt to ensure the continual and healthy development of offspring. The anterior pituitary gland, which serves as the endocrine interface between the brain and periphery, undergoes adaptations that contribute to regulation of the reproductive axis. Growth factors and their receptors are potential candidates for intrapituitary and paracrine factors to participate in the functional and anatomical plasticity of the gland. We examined the involvement of the growth factor glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and its receptor tyrosine kinase rearranged during transfection (Ret) in the physiological functional and anatomical plasticity of the anterior pituitary gland. We found that variations in both expression and subcellular localization of Ret during gestation and lactation are temporally correlated with changes in pituitary gland function. We showed that Ret/GDNF signaling could endorse two different functional roles depending on the physiological status. At the end of lactation and after weaning, Ret was colocalized with markers of apoptosis. We found that Ret could therefore act as a physiological dependence receptor capable of inducing apoptosis in the absence of GDNF. In addition, we identified the follicullostellate cell as a probable source for intrapituitary GDNF and proposed GDNF as a potential physiological modulator of endocrine cell function. During all stages studied, we showed that acute application of GDNF to pituitary slices was able to modulate both positively and negatively intracellular calcium activity. Altogether our results implicate Ret/GDNF as a potent pleiotropic factor able to influence pituitary physiology during a period of high plasticity.
Hormones are dynamically collected by fenestrated capillaries to generate pulses, which are then decoded by target tissues to mount a biological response. To generate hormone pulses, endocrine systems have evolved mechanisms to tightly regulate blood perfusion and oxygenation, coordinate endocrine cell responses to secretory stimuli, and regulate hormone uptake from the perivascular space into the bloodstream. Based on recent findings, we review here the mechanisms that exist in endocrine systems to regulate blood flow, and facilitate coordinated cell activity and output under both normal physiological and pathological conditions in the pituitary gland and pancreas.
The pulsatile release of hormone is obligatory for the control of a range of important body homeostatic functions. To generate these pulses, endocrine organs have developed finely regulated mechanisms to modulate blood flow both to meet the metabolic demand associated with intense endocrine cell activity and to ensure the temporally precise uptake of secreted hormone into the bloodstream. With a particular focus on the pituitary gland as a model system, we review here the importance of the interplay between blood flow regulation and oxygen tensions in the functioning of endocrine systems, and the known regulatory signals involved in the modification of flow patterns under both normal physiological and pathological conditions.
There are well-recognized sex differences in many pituitary endocrine axes, usually thought to be generated by gonadal steroid imprinting of the neuroendocrine hypothalamus. However, the recognition that growth hormone (GH) cells are arranged in functionally organized networks raises the possibility that the responses of the network are different in males and females. We studied this by directly monitoring the calcium responses to an identical GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) stimulus in populations of individual GH cells in slices taken from male and female murine GH-eGFP pituitary glands. We found that the GH cell network responses are sexually dimorphic, with a higher proportion of responding cells in males than in females, correlated with greater GH release from male slices. Repetitive waves of calcium spiking activity were triggered by GHRH in some males, but were never observed in females. This was not due to a permanent difference in the network architecture between male and female mice; rather, the sex difference in the proportions of GH cells responding to GHRH were switched by postpubertal gonadectomy and reversed with hormone replacements, suggesting that the network responses are dynamically regulated in adulthood by gonadal steroids. Thus, the pituitary gland contributes to the sexually dimorphic patterns of GH secretion that play an important role in differences in growth and metabolism between the sexes.
Growth hormone (GH) is the key hormone involved in the regulation of growth and metabolism, two functions that are highly modulated during infancy. GH secretion, controlled mainly by GH releasing hormone (GHRH), has a characteristic pattern during postnatal development that results in peaks of blood concentration at birth and puberty. A detailed knowledge of the electrophysiology of the GHRH neurons is necessary to understand the mechanisms regulating postnatal GH secretion. Here, we describe the unique postnatal development of the electrophysiological properties of GHRH neurons and their regulation by gonadal hormones. Using GHRH-eGFP mice, we demonstrate that already at birth, GHRH neurons receive numerous synaptic inputs and fire large and fast action potentials (APs), consistent with effective GH secretion. Concomitant with the GH secretion peak occurring at puberty, these neurons display modifications of synaptic input properties, decrease in AP duration, and increase in a transient voltage-dependant potassium current. Furthermore, the modulation of both the AP duration and voltage-dependent potassium current are specifically controlled by gonadal hormones because gonadectomy prevented the maturation of these active properties and hormonal treatment restored it. Thus, GHRH neurons undergo specific developmental modulations of their electrical properties over the first six postnatal weeks, in accordance with hormonal demand. Our results highlight the importance of the interaction between the somatotrope and gonadotrope axes during the establishment of adapted neuroendocrine functions.
The mammalian circadian system is composed of multiple peripheral clocks that are synchronized by a central pacemaker in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus. This system keeps track of the external world rhythms through entrainment by various time cues, such as the light-dark cycle and the feeding schedule. Alterations of photoperiod and meal time modulate the phase coupling between central and peripheral oscillators. In this study, we used real-time quantitative PCR to assess circadian clock gene expression in the liver and pituitary gland from mice raised under various photoperiods, or under a temporal restricted feeding protocol. Our results revealed unexpected differences between both organs. Whereas the liver oscillator always tracked meal time, the pituitary circadian clockwork showed an intermediate response, in between entrainment by the light regimen and the feeding-fasting rhythm. The same composite response was also observed in the pituitary gland from adrenalectomized mice under daytime restricted feeding, suggesting that circulating glucocorticoids do not inhibit full entrainment of the pituitary clockwork by meal time. Altogether our results reveal further aspects in the complexity of phase entrainment in the circadian system, and suggest that the pituitary may host oscillators able to integrate multiple time cues.
Growth hormone (GH) exerts its actions via coordinated pulsatile secretion from a GH cell network into the bloodstream. Practically nothing is known about how the network receives its inputs in vivo and releases hormones into pituitary capillaries to shape GH pulses. Here we have developed in vivo approaches to measure local blood flow, oxygen partial pressure, and cell activity at single-cell resolution in mouse pituitary glands in situ. When secretagogue (GHRH) distribution was modeled with fluorescent markers injected into either the bloodstream or the nearby intercapillary space, a restricted distribution gradient evolved within the pituitary parenchyma. Injection of GHRH led to stimulation of both GH cell network activities and GH secretion, which was temporally associated with increases in blood flow rates and oxygen supply by capillaries, as well as oxygen consumption. Moreover, we observed a time-limiting step for hormone output at the perivascular level; macromolecules injected into the extracellular parenchyma moved rapidly to the perivascular space, but were then cleared more slowly in a size-dependent manner into capillary blood. Our findings suggest that GH pulse generation is not simply a GH cell network response, but is shaped by a tissue microenvironment context involving a functional association between the GH cell network activity and fluid microcirculation.
Ghrelin targets the arcuate nucleus, from where growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH) neurones trigger GH secretion. This hypothalamic nucleus also contains neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurons which play a master role in the effect of ghrelin on feeding. Interestingly, connections between NPY and GHRH neurons have been reported, leading to the hypothesis that the GH axis and the feeding circuits might be co-regulated by ghrelin.
We have generated transgenic mice with somatotroph-specific expression of a modified influenza virus ion channel, (H37A)M2, leading to ablation of GH cells with three levels of severity, dependent on transgene copy number. GH-M2(low) mice grow normally and have normal-size pituitaries but 40-50% reduction in pituitary GH content in adult animals. GH-M2(med) mice have male-specific transient growth retardation and a reduction in pituitary GH content by 75% at 42 d and 97% by 100 d. GH-M2(high) mice are severely dwarfed with undetectable pituitary GH. The GH secretory response of GH-M2(low) and GH-M2(med) mice to GH-releasing peptide-6 and GHRH was markedly attenuated. The content of other pituitary hormones was affected depending on transgene copy number: no effect in GH-M2(low) mice, prolactin and TSH reduced in GH-M2(med) mice, and all hormones reduced in GH-M2(high) mice. The effect on non-GH hormone content was associated with increased macrophage invasion of the pituitary. Somatotroph ablation affected GH cell network organization with limited disruption in GH-M2(low) mice but more severe disruption in GH-M2(med) mice. The remaining somatotrophs formed tight clusters after puberty, which contrasts with GHRH-M2 mice with a secondary reduction in somatotrophs that do not form clusters. A reduction in pituitary beta-catenin staining was correlated with GH-M2 transgene copy number, suggesting M2 expression has an effect on cell-cell communication in somatotrophs and other pituitary cell types. GH-M2 transgenic mice demonstrate that differing degrees of somatotroph ablation lead to correlated secondary effects on cell populations and cellular network organization.
Our view of anterior pituitary organization has been altered with the recognition that folliculo-stellate (FS) and somatotroph cell populations form large-scale three-dimensional homotypic networks. This morphological cellular organization may optimize communication within the pituitary gland promoting coordinated pulsatile secretion adapted to physiological needs. The aim of this study was to identify the molecules involved in the formation and potential functional organization and/or signaling within these cell-cell networks. Here, we have focused on one class of cell adhesion molecules, the cadherins, since beta-catenin has been detected in the GH cell network. We have characterized, by qPCR and immunohistochemistry, their cellular expression and distribution. We have also examined whether their expression could be modulated during pituitary tissue remodeling. The mouse anterior pituitary has a restricted and cell-type specific repertoire of cadherin expression: cadherin-11 is exclusively expressed in TSH cells; N-cadherin displays a ubiquitous expression pattern but with different levels of expression between endocrine cell types; E-cadherin is restricted to homotypic contacts between FS cells; while cadherin-18 is expressed both in somatotrophs and FS cells. Thus, each cell type presents a defined combinatorial expression of different subsets of cadherins. This cell-type specific cadherin expression profile emerges early during development and undergoes major changes during postnatal development. These results suggest the existence within the anterior pituitary of cell-cell contact signaling based on a defined pattern of cadherin expression, which may play a crucial role in cellular recognition during the formation and fate of pituitary cell homotypic networks.
In mammals, males and females exhibit anatomical, hormonal, and metabolic differences. A major example of such sex dimorphism in mouse involves hepatic drug metabolism, which is also a noticeable target of circadian timekeeping. However, whether the circadian clock itself contributes to sex-biased metabolism has remained unknown, although several daily output parameters differ between sexes in a number of species, including humans. Here we show that dimorphic liver metabolism is altered when the circadian regulators Cryptochromes, Cry1 and Cry2, are inactivated. Indeed, double mutant Cry1(-/-) Cry2(-/-) male mice that lack a functional circadian clock express a number of sex-specific liver products, including several cytochrome P450 enzymes, at levels close to those measured in females. In addition, body growth of Cry-deficient mice is impaired, also in a sex-biased manner, and this phenotype goes along with an altered pattern of circulating growth hormone (GH) in mutant males, specifically. It is noteworthy that hormonal injections able to mimic male GH pulses reversed the feminized gene expression profile in the liver of Cry1(-/-) Cry2(-/-) males. Altogether, our observations suggest that the 24-h clock paces the dimorphic ultradian pulsatility of GH that is responsible for sex-dependent liver activity. We thus conclude that circadian timing, sex dimorphism, and liver metabolism are finely interconnected.
Recent advances in tridimensional (3D) tissue imaging have considerably enriched our view of the pituitary gland and its development. Whereas traditional histology of the pituitary anterior lobe portrayed this tissue as a patchwork of cells, 3D imaging revealed that cells of each lineage form extensive and structured homotypic networks. In the adult gland these networks contribute to the robustness and coordination of the cell response to secretagogs. In addition, the network organization adapts to changes in endocrine environment, as revealed by the sexually dimorphic growth hormone (GH) cell network. Further work is required to establish better the molecular basis for homotypic and heterotypic interactions in the pituitary as well as the implications of these interactions for pituitary function and dysfunction in humans.
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