Regulation of hypothalamic prohormone convertases 1 and 2 and effects on processing of prothyrotropin-releasing hormone

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Regulation of energy balance by leptin involves regulation of several neuropeptides, including thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). Synthesized from a larger inactive precursor, its maturation requires proteolytic cleavage by prohormone convertases 1 and 2 (PC1 and PC2). Since this maturation in response to leptin requires prohormone processing, we hypothesized that leptin might regulate hypothalamic PC1 and PC2 expression, ultimately leading to coordinated processing of prohormones into mature peptides. Using hypothalamic neurons, we found that leptin stimulated PC1 and PC2 mRNA and protein expression and also increased PC1 and PC2 promoter activities in transfected 293T cells. Starvation of rats, leading to low serum leptin levels, decreased PC1 and PC2 gene and protein expression in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus. Exogenous administration of leptin to fasted animals restored PC1 levels in the median eminence (ME) and the PVN to approximately the level found in fed control animals. Consistent with this regulation of PCs in the PVN, concentrations of TRH in the PVN and ME were substantially reduced in the fasted animals relative to the fed animals, and leptin reversed this decrease. Further analysis showed that proteolytic cleavage of pro-thyrotropin-releasing hormone (proTRH) at known PC cleavage sites was reduced by fasting and increased in animals given leptin. Combined, these findings suggest that leptin-dependent stimulation of hypothalamic TRH expression involves both activation of trh transcription and stimulation of PC1 and PC2 expression, which lead to enhanced processing of proTRH into mature TRH.

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