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W. Kiess and O. Butenandt

Abstract. A recently described method to investigate growth hormone (GH) receptors on circulating human blood cells has been used to study the effect of a trypsin preparation and antitrypsin moieties on hormone binding to lymphocytes. Trypsinization with one defined dose of trypsin (10 ng/ml) led to a considerable decrease both of specific binding and of binding affinity (affinity constant after 60 min trypsinization 0.5 × 109 vs 1.5 × 109 m −1 in untreated control cells). Exposure of peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) to antitrypsin activites was followed by a steady increase of affinity and specific binding (affinity constant: with 10 KIU anti-trypsin 1.9 × 109 m −1, with 100 KIU 2.4 × 109 m −1, with 1000 KIU 3.6 × 109 m −1). This antitrypsin effect exceeds the binding values expected after blocking trypsin activities in the incubation medium. In a subset of experiments somatomedin-B (SM-B) was used as the antitrypsin moiety and was shown to increase specific GH binding to PBL in a similar manner as did antitrypsin (with 1000 ng SM-B affinity constant (Ka) 12.0 × 109 m −1, specific binding 9.7% of total radioactivity). It is concluded that enzymatic factors and their inhibitors including partially GH dependent moieties like SM-B modulate specific GH binding to human peripheral lymphocytes in vitro.

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W Kiess and B Gallaher

Apoptosis or programmed cell death is a physiological form of cell death that occurs in embryonic development and during involution of organs. It is characterized by distinct biochemical and morphological changes such as DNA fragmentation, plasma membrane blebbing and cell volume shrinkage. Many hormones, cytokines and growth factors are known to act as general and/or tissue-specific survival factors preventing the onset of apoptosis. In addition, many hormones and growth factors are also capable of inducing or facilitating programmed cell death under physiological or pathological conditions, or both. Steroid hormones are potent regulators of apoptosis in steroid-dependent cell types and tissues such as the mammary gland, the prostate, the ovary and the testis. Growth factors such as epidermal growth factor, nerve growth factor, platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and insulin-like growth factor-I act as survival factors and inhibit apoptosis in a number of cell types such as haematopoietic cells, preovulatory follicles, the mammary gland, phaeochromocytoma cells and neurones. Conversely, apoptosis modulates the functioning and the functional integrity of many endocrine glands and of many cells that are capable of synthesizing and secreting hormones. In addition, exaggeration of the primarily natural process of apoptosis has a key role in the pathogenesis of diseases involving endocrine tissues. Most importantly, in autoimmune diseases such as autoimmune thyroid disease and type 1 diabetes mellitus, new data suggest that the immune system itself may not carry the final act of organ injury: rather, the target cells (i.e. thyrocytes and beta cells of the islets) commit suicide through apoptosis. The understanding of how hormones influence programmed cell death and, conversely, of how apoptosis affects endocrine glands, is central to further design strategies to prevent and treat diseases that affect endocrine tissues. This short review summarizes the available evidence showing where and how hormones control apoptosis and where and how programmed cell death exerts modulating effects upon hormonally active tissues.

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W Kiess, M Anil, WF Blum, P Englaro, A Juul, A Attanasio, J Dotsch, and W Rascher

The ob protein, termed leptin, is produced by adipocytes and is thought to act as an afferent satiety signal regulating weight through suppressing appetite and stimulating energy expenditure in humans and/or rodents. Insulin has been found to be a potent stimulator of leptin expression in rodents. It is unclear at present whether this insulin action is a direct or an indirect effect. To investigate whether leptin concentrations in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes (IDDM) were related to metabolic status, body weight, body mass index and insulin treatment, we have measured leptin concentrations in serum from 13 newly diagnosed IDDM patients before the beginning of insulin treatment (8 girls, 5 boys, aged 4.7-17.5 years) and in 134 patients with IDDM during treatment (64 girls, 70 boys, aged 2.6-20.1 years) using a specific radioimmunoassay. The data from patients with diabetes were compared with normative data that were derived from a large cohort of healthy children and adolescents. Serum from children with newly diagnosed diabetes had significantly lower levels of leptin (mean 1.28+/-1.60 ng/ml, range 0.14-6.13 ng/ml) compared with healthy children (n=710) (mean 2.2 ng/ml, range 0.26-14.4ng/ml) and compared with insulin-treated children and adolescents (mean 5.18+/-5.48 ng/ml, range 0.26-29.77 ng/ml) (P<0.0001) even after adjustment for gender and body mass index (BMI). Serum leptin levels in patients with IDDM were significantly correlated with BMI (r=0.42, P<0.0001). Multiple regression analysis showed that age and BMI were significantly correlated with leptin levels, while duration of diabetes, mean HbA1c levels, insulin dose and plasma glucose, triglyceride and cholesterol levels were not. Females had higher serum leptin concentrations than males even when adjusted for BMI (P<0.0001). Surprisingly and most importantly, leptin levels in insulin-treated young adult (Tanner stage 5) patients were significantly higher than values found in the healthy nondiabetic reference population when adjusted for sex, Tanner stage and BMI. These findings suggest that leptin levels in IDDM patients show a similar dependency on adipose tissue and age as in healthy, normal children. The data provide evidence that insulin may be of importance as a regulator of serum leptin levels in vivo not only in rodents but also in humans. It is hypothesized that the elevated BMI-adjusted leptin levels in adolescents with IDDM could indicate either that these patients may be oversubstituted by the intensified insulin therapy that they are receiving or that their body composition and body fat content may differ from that of healthy adolescents in the sense that they have a relative increase in fat mass.

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BW Gallaher, MH Oliver, K Eichhorn, U Kessler, W Kiess, JE Harding, PD Gluckman, and BH Breier

Gallaher BW, Oliver MH, Eichhorn K, Kessler U, Kiess W, Harding JE, Gluckman PD, Breier BH. Circulating insulin-like growth factor II/mannose-6-phosphate receptor and insulin-like growth factor binding proteins in fetal sheep plasma are regulated by glucose and insulin. Eur J Endocrinol 1994; 131:398–404. ISSN 0804–4643

We have reported previously that levels of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) and IGF-II in fetal sheep plasma decrease with maternal starvation and increase following an infusion of glucose to the starved fetus, while a fetal infusion of insulin elevates UGF-I alone. We now report the changes in the circulating IGF-II/M6P receptor and plasma IGF binding proteins (IGFBPs), as measured by western blotting and ligand blotting, respectively, in fetus and mother during this study. In fetal plasma, the circulating IGF-II/mannose-6-phosphate (M6P) receptor, IGFBP-3 and IGFBP-4 were reduced during starvation. While circulating IGF-II/M6P receptor and IGFBP-4 levels were increased following the fetal insulin or glucose infusion, IGFBP-3 was unchanged and increased only after 48 h of maternal refeeding. Both IGFBP-1 and IGFBP-2 increased with starvation but while IGFBP-1 levels returned to control values following both insulin and glucose infusion, levels of IGFBP-2 were not reduced significantly by either infusion or by refeeding. In maternal plasma, levels of IGFBP-3 and IGFBP-4 decreased while IGFBP-1 and IGFBP-2 increased after 48 h of starvation. Levels of each IGFBP were unaltered following the fetal infusions but returned to values obtained during the control period after refeeding. These data show that each of the IGF carrier proteins is sensitive of changes in nutrition, either acutely, such as IGFBP-1, or chronically, as for IGFBP-3. This suggests that the circulating IGFII/M6P receptor and the IGFBP's may modulate IGF activity in the fetus during different nutritional states.

BH Breier, Research Centre for Developmental Medicine and Biology, Department of Paediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand

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J Kratzsch, A Deimel, A Galler, T Kapellen, A Klinghammer, and W Kiess

OBJECTIVE: We investigated whether or not serum levels of the soluble leptin receptor (sOB-R) and leptin are related to anthropometric and metabolic changes during pubertal development of children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes mellitus. DESIGN AND METHODS: Blood levels of sOB-R, leptin and HbA1C, as well as body-mass index (BMI), diabetes duration and daily insulin doses, were determined in 212 (97 girls; 115 boys) children with type 1 diabetes mellitus and compared with the sOB-R serum levels in 526 healthy children and adolescents. RESULTS: OB-R serum levels and parallel values of the molar ratio between sOB-R and leptin were significantly higher in children with diabetes than in normal children (P<0.05) in almost all investigated Tanner stages. Furthermore, in the entire group of patients, we demonstrated statistically significant correlations (P<0.02) between sOB-R and the duration of diabetes (r=0.30), HbA1c levels (r=0.32) and the insulin dose (r=0.18). Multiple-regression analysis revealed that HbA1c (12.4%), height (7.9%) and duration of diabetes (8.7%) contributed to 29% variance of sOB-R in diabetic children. CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggest that poor glycemic control in diabetes may lead to increased serum levels of sOB-R. This regulation of sOB-R appears to be independent of leptin, but may have an impact on leptin action. The consequently developing molar excess of sOB-R related to leptin could reduce leptin sensitivity and may, therefore, influence leptin-related anthropometric and metabolic abnormalities.

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B Seidel, A Glasow, M Schutt, W Kiess, Z Wu, CJ Strasburger, and J Kratzsch

OBJECTIVE: The human GH-binding protein (GHBP) is derived from the GH receptor (GHR) through proteolytic cleavage of its extracellular domain. Two isoforms of the GHBP exist, differing in the retention or exclusion of exon 3: E3(+)GHBP and E3(-)GHBP. Our study aimed to answer the questions whether the level of E3(+)GHBP in the serum correlates with the GHR exon 3 expression and whether or not the E3 genotype matches the mRNA expression pattern. METHODS: Since exon 3 retention/deletion can be detected at the protein level using epitope-specific antibodies, we were able to quantify the two isoforms by means of specific immunoassays in a total of 37 individuals. Additionally, these persons were also genotyped for exon 3 by genomic PCR and tested for GHR exon 3 mRNA expression by RT-PCR. RESULTS: We found a significant correlation between GHR exon 3 genotype and the ratio of E3(+)GHBP and E3(-)GHBP in the serum. Moreover, the genotype matched exactly the mRNA expression in fibroblasts and/or blood leukocytes in all samples investigated. The levels of E3(+)GHBP are more strongly correlated with body mass index, proinsulin and C-peptide than the levels of the E3(-) isoform. CONCLUSIONS: Our results show that the GHR exon 3 genotype is in accord with the type of GHBP isoforms found in the serum. Our data thus support the idea that the presence of exon 3-retaining and -excluding GHR/GHBP isoforms results from a genomic deletion rather than from alternative splicing.