Prenatal distress is associated with adverse outcomes in affected offspring. Alterations in placental glucocorticoid signalling and subsequent foetal overexposure to glucocorticoids have been implicated as an underlying mechanism. Infant sex is emerging as an important factor in disease susceptibility. This study aimed to examine the effects of maternal distress across pregnancy on birth outcomes and placental glucocorticoid genes in a sex-dependent manner. Participants completed psychological distress questionnaires throughout pregnancy. Placental HSD11B2, NR3C1 and FKBP51 were analysed by real time PCR and cortisol was measured in new-born hair. Second trimester stress was negatively correlated with birthweight in males and positively correlated with placental NR3C1 mRNA in females. Second trimester anxiety was negatively correlated with birthweight and placental FKBP51 mRNA in females. In mediation analysis, placental FKBP51 mRNA expression was found to mediate the link between prenatal anxiety and birthweight. New-born cortisol was negatively correlated with second trimester anxiety and positively correlated with female placental FKBP51 mRNA levels. Again, FKBP51 mRNA was found to mediate the link between anxiety and new-born cortisol. These results highlight a role for FKBP51 in the placental response to prenatal distress in females. The precise role that placental FKBP51 has in foetal and infant development has not been extensively studied and warrants further investigations.
Neuroblastoma (NB) is the most common extracranial solid tumor of early childhood; it accounts for approximately 8-10% of all childhood cancers and is the most common cancer in children in the first year of life. Patients in the high-risk group have a poor prognosis, with relapses being common and often refractory to drug treatment in those that survive. Moreover, the drug treatment itself can lead to a range of long-term sequelae. Therefore, there is a critical need to identify new therapeutics for NB. Isoliquiritigenin (ISLQ) is a naturally-occurring, dietary chalcone-type flavonoid with a range of biological effects that depend on the cell type and context. ISLQ has potential as an anticancer agent. Here we show that ISLQ has potent cytotoxic effects on SK-N-BE(2) and IMR-32 human NB cells, which carry amplification of the MYCN gene, the main prognostic marker of poor survival in NB. ISLQ was found to increase cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS). The cytotoxic effect of ISLQ was blocked by small molecule inhibitors of oxidative stress-induced cell death, and by the antioxidant N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC). Combined treatment of either SK-N-B-E(2) or IMR-32 cells with ISLQ and the anticancer agent cisplatin resulted in loss of cell viability that was greater than that induced by cisplatin alone. This study provides proof-of-principle that ISLQ is a potent cytotoxin for MYCN-amplified human NB cells. This is an important first step in rationalizing the further study of ISLQ as a potential adjunct therapy for high-risk NB.
Exposure to maternal cortisol plays a crucial role in fetal organogenesis. However, fetal overexposure to cortisol has been linked to a range of short- and long-term adverse outcomes. Normally, this is prevented by the expression of an enzyme in the placenta called 11-beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (11β-HSD2) which converts active cortisol to its inactive metabolite cortisone. Placental 11β-HSD2 is known to be reduced in a number of adverse pregnancy complications, possibly through an epigenetic mechanism. As a result, a number of pan-HDAC inhibitors have been examined for their ability to promote 11β-HSD2 expression. However, it is not known if the effects of pan-HDAC inhibition are a general phenomenon or if the effects are dependent upon a specific class of HDACs. Here, we examined the ability of pan- and class-specific HDAC inhibitors to regulate 11β-HSD2 expression in JEG3 cells. We find that pan-, class I, or class IIa HDAC inhibition promoted 11β-HSD2 expression and prevented cortisol or interleukin-1β-induced decrease in its expression. These results demonstrate that targeting a specific class of HDACs can promote 11β-HSD2 expression in JEG3 cells. This adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that HDACs may be crucial in maintaining normal fetal development.
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