Nina Zhang

St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Publications (11)57.84 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: It has been previously shown that oral magnesium administration decreases the levels of glucose in the plasma. However, the mechanisms are not fully understood. The aim of this study was to determine the potential role of GLUT4 on plasma glucose levels by orally administering magnesium sulfate to diabetic rats. Animals were distributed among 4 groups (n = 10 rats per group): one group served as the non-diabetic control, while the other groups had diabetes induced by streptozotocin (intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection). The diabetic rats were either given insulin by i.p. injection (2.5 U·(kg body mass)–1·day–1), or magnesium sulfate in their drinking water (10 g·L–1). After 8 weeks of treatment, we conducted an i.p. glucose tolerance test (IPGTT), measured blood glucose and plasma magnesium levels, and performed in-vitro and in-vivo insulin level measurements by radioimmunoassay. Gastrocnemius (leg) muscles were isolated for the measurement of GLU4 mRNA expression using real-time PCR. Administration of magnesium sulfate improved IPGTT and lowered blood glucose levels almost to the normal range. However, the insulin levels were not changed in either of the in-vitro or in-vivo studies. The expression of GLU4 mRNA increased 23% and 10% in diabetic magnesium-treated and insulin-treated groups, respectively. Our findings suggest that magnesium lowers blood glucose levels via increased GLU4 mRNA expression, independent to insulin secretion.
    Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 02/2014; 92(6). · 1.55 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We demonstrated previously that the activation of ALK7 (activin receptor-like kinase-7), a member of the type I receptor serine/threonine kinases of the TGF-β superfamily, resulted in increased apoptosis and reduced proliferation through suppression of Akt signaling and the activation of Smad2-dependent signaling pathway in pancreatic β-cells. Here, we show that Nodal activates ALK7 signaling and regulates β-cell apoptosis. We detected Nodal expression in the clonal β-cell lines and rodent islet β-cells. Induction of β-cell apoptosis by treatment with high glucose, palmitate, or cytokines significantly increased Nodal expression in clonal INS-1 β-cells and isolated rat islets. The stimuli induced upregulation of Nodal expression levels were associated with elevation of ALK7 protein and enhanced phosphorylated Smad3 protein. Nodal treatment or overexpression of Nodal dose- or time-dependently increased active caspase-3 levels in INS-1 cells. Nodal-induced apoptosis was associated with decreased Akt phosphorylation and reduced expression level of X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis (XIAP). Remarkably, overexpression of XIAP or constitutively active Akt, or ablation of Smad2/3 activity partially blocked Nodal-induced apoptosis. Furthermore, siRNA-mediated ALK7 knockdown significantly attenuated Nodal-induced apoptosis of INS-1 cells. We suggest that Nodal-induced apoptosis in β-cells is mediated through ALK7 signaling involving the activation of Smad2/3-caspase-3 and the suppression of Akt and XIAP pathways and that Nodal may exert its biological effects on the modulation of β-cell survival and β-cell mass in an autocrine fashion.
    AJP Endocrinology and Metabolism 05/2012; 303(1):E132-43. · 4.51 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease characterized by insulitis and islet β-cell loss. Thus, an effective therapy may require β-cell restoration and immune suppression. Currently, there is no treatment that can achieve both goals efficiently. We report here that GABA exerts antidiabetic effects by acting on both the islet β-cells and immune system. Unlike in adult brain or islet α-cells in which GABA exerts hyperpolarizing effects, in islet β-cells, GABA produces membrane depolarization and Ca(2+) influx, leading to the activation of PI3-K/Akt-dependent growth and survival pathways. This provides a potential mechanism underlying our in vivo findings that GABA therapy preserves β-cell mass and prevents the development of T1D. Remarkably, in severely diabetic mice, GABA restores β-cell mass and reverses the disease. Furthermore, GABA suppresses insulitis and systemic inflammatory cytokine production. The β-cell regenerative and immunoinhibitory effects of GABA provide insights into the role of GABA in regulating islet cell function and glucose homeostasis, which may find clinical application.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2011; 108(28):11692-7. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The incretin hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) exerts important functions in controlling glucose and energy homeostasis. Endogenous GLP-1 has a very short half-life due to DPP-IV-mediated degradation and renal clearance, which limits the therapeutic use of native GLP-1. We have shown previously that immunoglobulin fragment-fused GLP-1 (GLP-1/Fc) is a structurally stable GLP-1 analog. Here, we report a non-viral GLP-1/Fc gene therapy strategy utilizing a REP78-in-trans and REB-in-cis element system to achieve a site-specific genomic integration. For this purpose, the GLP-1/Fc expression cassette, which is fused with the RBE element, was co-injected with the Rep78 plasmid into the muscles of transgenic mice carrying the AAVS1 locus of human chromosome 19. The Rep protein-mediated site-specific integration was demonstrated by nested PCR, dot-blot, and Southern blotting. We found that this approach reduced weight gain and improved lipid profiles in the AAVS1-mice on high-fat diet challenge. Our observations reveal a new GLP-1 therapeutic strategy with an apparent absence of side effects, which may find applications in diabetes treatment and obesity prevention.
    Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 11/2010; 403(2):172-7. · 2.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms in intronic regions of human TCF7L2 are associated with an elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Whether Tcf7l2 is expressed in pancreatic islets of rodent species at a considerable level, however, remains controversial. We used RT-PCR and quantitative RT-PCR to examine Tcf7l2 expression in rodent gut, pancreas, isolated pancreatic islets, and cultured cell lines. The expression level of Tcf7l2 was relatively lower in the pancreas compared to the gut or the pancreatic β-cell line Ins-1. Immunostaining did not detect a Tcf7l2 signal in mouse pancreatic islets. Endogenous canonical Wnt activity was not appreciable in the pancreas of TOPGAL transgenic mice. Both Tcf7 and Tcf7l1, but not Lef1, were expressed in the pancreas. The expression of the three Tcf genes (Tcf7, Tcf7l1, and Tcf7l2) in the pancreas was reduced by treatment with insulin or high-fat diet feeding, in contrast to the stimulation of Tcf7l2 expression by insulin in the gut. We suggest that hyperinsulinemia represses Tcf gene expression in the pancreas. Whether and how this reduction alters the function of pancreatic β cells during hyperinsulinemia deserves further investigation.
    Journal of Endocrinology 10/2010; 207(1):77-86. · 3.59 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: GLP-1 has a variety of anti-diabetic effects. However, native GLP-1 is not suitable for therapy of diabetes due to its short half-life (t1/2<2 min). To circumvent this, we developed a long-lasting GLP-1 receptor agonist by the fusion of GLP-1 with human IgG2 Fc (GLP-1/hIgG2). ELISA-based receptor binding assay demonstrated that GLP-1/hIgG2 had high binding affinity to the GLP-1R in INS-1 cells (Kd = 13.90±1.52 nM). Upon binding, GLP-1/hIgG2 was rapidly internalized by INS-1 cells in a dynamin-dependent manner. Insulin RIA showed that GLP-1/IgG2 dose-dependently stimulated insulin secretion from INS-1 cells. Pharmacokinetic studies in CD1 mice showed that with intraperitoneal injection (i.p.), the GLP-1/hIgG2 peaked at 30 minutes in circulation and maintained a plateau for >168 h. Intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test (IPGTT) in mice showed that GLP-1/hIgG2 significantly decreased glucose excursion. Furthermore, IPGTT performed on mice one week after a single drug-injection also displayed significantly reduced glucose excursion, indicating that GLP-1/hIgG2 fusion protein has long-lasting effects on the modulation of glucose homeostasis. GLP-1/hIgG2 was found to be effective in reducing the incidence of diabetes in multiple-low-dose streptozotocin-induced type 1 diabetes in mice. Together, the long-lasting bioactive GLP-1/hIgG2 retains native GLP-1 activities and thus may serve as a potent GLP-1 receptor agonist.
    PLoS ONE 09/2010; 5(9):e12734. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cyclic AMP is a fundamentally important second messenger for numerous peptide hormones and neurotransmitters that control gene expression, cell proliferation, and metabolic homeostasis. Here we show that cAMP works with the POU homeodomain protein Oct-1 to regulate gene expression in pancreatic and intestinal endocrine cells. This ubiquitously expressed transcription factor is known as a stress sensor. We found that it also functions as a repressor of Cdx-2, a proglucagon gene activator. Through a mechanism that involves the activation of exchange protein activated by cyclic AMP, elevation of cAMP leads to enhanced phosphorylation and nuclear exclusion of Oct-1 and reduced interactions between Oct-1 or nuclear co-repressors and the Cdx-2 gene promoter, detected by chromatin immunoprecipitation. In rat primary pancreatic islet cells, cAMP elevation also reduces nuclear Oct-1 content, which causes increased proglucagon and proinsulin mRNA expression. Our study therefore identifies a novel mechanism by which cAMP regulates hormone-gene expression and suggests that ubiquitously expressed Oct-1 may play a role in metabolic homeostasis by functioning as a sensor for cAMP.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 08/2009; 284(39):26456-65. · 4.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Both Epac and PKA are effectors of the second messenger cAMP. Utilizing an exchange protein directly activated by cAMP (Epac) pathway-specific cAMP analog (ESCA), we previously reported that Epac signaling regulates proglucagon gene (gcg) expression in the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1)-producing intestinal endocrine L-cell lines GLUTag and STC-1. We now show that Epac-2 is also expressed in glucagon-producing pancreatic alpha-cell lines, including PKA-deficient InR1-G9 cells, and that ESCA stimulates gcg promoter and mRNA expression in the InR1-G9 cells. Using a dominant-negative Epac-2 expression plasmid (Epac-2DN), we found that Epac inhibition attenuated forskolin-stimulated gcg promoter expression in the PKA-active STC-1 cell line and blocked forskolin-stimulated gcg promoter expression in the InR1-G9 cells. Consistently, ESCA was shown to stimulate glucagon and GLP-1 production in the InR1-G9 and GLUTag cell lines, respectively. Surprisingly, ESCA treatment did not show a notable stimulation of glucagon or GLP-1 secretion from these two cell lines. This is in contrast to its ability to stimulate insulin secretion from the pancreatic INS-1 beta-cell line. Our findings suggest that Epac is selectively involved in peptide hormone secretion in pancreatic and intestinal endocrine cells and that distinct signaling cascades are involved in stimulating production vs. secretion of glucagon and GLP-1 in response to cAMP elevation.
    AJP Endocrinology and Metabolism 11/2008; 296(1):E174-81. · 4.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Inappropriate adaptation of beta-cell mass is a primary cause of the development of diabetic hyperglycemia. However, the mechanisms underlying regulation of the beta-cell mass in response to insulin resistance or in the development of type 2 diabetes remain unclear. We determined the insulin signaling in the beta-cells and the adaptation of the beta-cell mass in response to the progression of insulin resistance in OLETF rats. By 25 weeks of age, at the onset of diabetes, compared to control LETO rats, OLETF rats developed obesity (Body weight: LETO vs OLETF = 474.0+/-9.5 vs 581.3+/-21.8 g, P < 0.001, n=6), hyperlipidemia (Cholesterol: LETO vs OLETF = 1.67+/-0.07 vs 2.19+/-0.20 mM, P < 0.05, n=6; triglyceride: LETO vs OLETF = 0.36+/-0.05 vs 1.36+/-0.12 mM, P < 0.001, n=6), and impaired glucose tolerance (AUC: LETO vs OLETF = 10.3+/-3.4 vs 29.6+/-7.8 mM, P < 0.001, n=6). Insulin sensitivities as assessed by the insulin sensitivity index (ISI) and the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA) indicated that OLETF rats developed severe insulin resistance. The measurement of plasma insulin levels by ELISA demonstrated, at the onset of diabetes, that fasting insulin levels were increased by 1.2-fold, and 2 hr postprandial insulin levels were increased by 3-fold (P < 0.05, n=6) in OLETF rats compared to age-matched LETO mates which is suggestive of hyperinsulinemia. Immunostaining detected a significant reduction in the insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS1) (by 54%, P < 0.001) and IRS2 (by 55%, P < 0.001) in the beta-cells of the OLETF rats. Interestingly, while the beta-cell mass was found to be increased (by 2.2-fold; P < 0.001), the beta-cell insulin content as determined by immunostaining was significantly reduced by 32% (P < 0.001) in the OLETF rats when compared to the controls. Our findings suggest that despite increasing beta-cell mass the impaired beta-cell insulin signaling and reduced beta-cell insulin content may contribute to the onset of overt diabetes in OLETF rats.
    Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry 01/2008; 21(5-6):445-54. · 3.55 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Excessive secretion of glucagon is a major contributor to the development of diabetic hyperglycemia. Secretion of glucagon is regulated by various nutrients, with glucose being a primary determinant of the rate of alpha cell glucagon secretion. The intra-islet action of insulin is essential to exert the effect of glucose on the alpha cells since, in the absence of insulin, glucose is not able to suppress glucagon release in vivo. However, the precise mechanism by which insulin suppresses glucagon secretion from alpha cells is unknown. In this study, we show that insulin induces activation of GABAA receptors in the alpha cells by receptor translocation via an Akt kinase-dependent pathway. This leads to membrane hyperpolarization in the alpha cells and, ultimately, suppression of glucagon secretion. We propose that defects in this pathway(s) contribute to diabetic hyperglycemia.
    Cell Metabolism 02/2006; 3(1):47-58. · 16.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Although the homeobox gene Cdx-2 was initially isolated from the pancreatic beta cell line HIT-T15, no examination of its role in regulating endogenous insulin gene expression has been reported. To explore further the role of Cdx-2 in regulating both insulin and proglucagon gene expression, we established an ecdysone-inducible Cdx-2 expression system. This report describes a study using the rat insulinoma cell line RIN-1056A, which abundantly expresses both insulin and proglucagon (glu), and relatively high amounts of endogenous Cdx-2. Following the introduction of the inducible Cdx-2 expression system into this cell line and the antibiotic selection procedure, we obtained novel cell lines that displayed dramatically reduced expression of endogenous Cdx-2, in the absence of the inducer. These novel cell lines did not express detectable amounts of glu mRNA or the glucagon hormone, while their insulin expression was not substantially affected. In the presence of the inducer, however, transfected Cdx-2 expression was dramatically increased, accompanied by stimulation of endogenous Cdx-2 expression. More importantly, activated Cdx-2 expression was accompanied by elevated insulin mRNA expression, and insulin synthesis. Cdx-2 bound to the insulin gene promoter enhancer elements, and stimulated the expression of a luciferase reporter gene driven by these enhancer elements. Furthermore, Cdx-2 and insulin gene expressions in the wild-type RIN-1056A cells were stimulated by forskolin treatment, and forskolin-mediated activation on insulin gene expression was attenuated in the absence of Cdx-2. We suggest that Cdx-2 may mediate the second messenger cAMP in regulating insulin gene transcription.
    Journal of Endocrinology 08/2005; 186(1):179-92. · 3.59 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

197 Citations
57.84 Total Impact Points


  • 2010–2012
    • St. Michael's Hospital
      Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    • Fudan University
      Shanghai, Shanghai Shi, China
  • 2005–2010
    • University of Toronto
      • • Department of Physiology
      • • Department of Medicine
      • • Faculty of Medicine
      Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2008–2009
    • University Health Network
      • Division of Cell and Molecular Biology
      Toronto, Ontario, Canada