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1.  Subtype-selective regulation of IP3 receptors by thimerosal via cysteine residues within the IP3-binding core and suppressor domain 
Biochemical Journal  2013;451(Pt 2):177-184.
IP3R (IP3 [inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate] receptors) and ryanodine receptors are the most widely expressed intracellular Ca2+ channels and both are regulated by thiol reagents. In DT40 cells stably expressing single subtypes of mammalian IP3R, low concentrations of thimerosal (also known as thiomersal), which oxidizes thiols to form a thiomercurylethyl complex, increased the sensitivity of IP3-evoked Ca2+ release via IP3R1 and IP3R2, but inhibited IP3R3. Activation of IP3R is initiated by IP3 binding to the IBC (IP3-binding core; residues 224–604) and proceeds via re-arrangement of an interface between the IBC and SD (suppressor domain; residues 1–223). Thimerosal (100 μM) stimulated IP3 binding to the isolated NT (N-terminal; residues 1–604) of IP3R1 and IP3R2, but not to that of IP3R3. Binding of a competitive antagonist (heparin) or partial agonist (dimeric-IP3) to NT1 was unaffected by thiomersal, suggesting that the effect of thimerosal is specifically related to IP3R activation. IP3 binding to NT1 in which all cysteine residues were replaced by alanine was insensitive to thimerosal, so too were NT1 in which cysteine residues were replaced in either the SD or IBC. This demonstrates that thimerosal interacts directly with cysteine in both the SD and IBC. Chimaeric proteins in which the SD of the IP3R was replaced by the structurally related A domain of a ryanodine receptor were functional, but thimerosal inhibited both IP3 binding to the chimaeric NT and IP3-evoked Ca2+ release from the chimaeric IP3R. This is the first systematic analysis of the effects of a thiol reagent on each IP3R subtype. We conclude that thimerosal selectively sensitizes IP3R1 and IP3R2 to IP3 by modifying cysteine residues within both the SD and IBC and thereby stabilizing an active conformation of the receptor.
doi:10.1042/BJ20121600
PMCID: PMC3610541  PMID: 23282150
Ca2+ channel; IP3 receptor; IP3-binding core; redox regulation; ryanodine receptor; suppressor domain; thimerosal (thiomersal); thiol; CLM, cytosol-like medium; GST, glutathione transferase; IBC, inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate-binding core; IP3, inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate; IP3R, inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor; Kd, equilibrium dissociation constant; KO, knockout; NT, N-terminal; NT1CL, cysteine-less NT1; NT1CL−IBC, NT1 where cysteine residues within the IBC were replaced by alanine; NT1CL−SD, NT1 where cysteine residues within the SD were replaced by alanine; RyR, ryanodine receptor; RyR1A, A domain of the type 1 RyR; RyR2A, A domain of the type 2 RyR; SD, suppressor domain
2.  Structural and functional conservation of key domains in InsP3 and ryanodine receptors 
Nature  2012;483(7387):108-112.
Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptors (InsP3R) and ryanodine receptors (RyR) are tetrameric intracellular Ca2+ channels1. For each, the pore is formed by C-terminal transmembrane domains and regulated by signals detected by the large cytosolic structures. InsP3R gating is initiated by InsP3 binding to the InsP3-binding core (IBC, residues 224-604 of InsP3R1)2 and it requires the suppressor domain (SD, residues 1-223)2-8. We present structures of the N-terminal region (NT) of InsP3R1 with (3.6 Å) and without (3.0 Å) InsP3 bound. The arrangement of the three NT domains, the SD, IBC-β and IBC-α, identifies two discrete interfaces (α and β) between the IBC and SD. Similar interfaces occur between equivalent domains (A, B and C) in RyR19. The orientations of the three domains docked into a tetrameric structure of InsP3R10 and of the ABC domains in RyR9 are remarkably similar. The importance of the α-interface for activation of InsP3R and RyR is confirmed by mutagenesis and, for RyR, by disease-causing mutations9,11,12. InsP3 causes partial closure of the clam-like IBC, disrupting the β-interface and pulling the SD towards the IBC. This reorients an exposed SD loop (HS-loop) that is essential for InsP3R activation7. The loop is conserved in RyR and includes mutations associated with malignant hyperthermia and central core disease9,11,12. The HS-loop interacts with an adjacent NT, suggesting that activation re-arranges inter-subunit interactions. The A-domain of RyR functionally replaced the SD in a full-length InsP3R, and an InsP3R in which its C-terminal transmembrane region was replaced by that from RyR1 was gated by InsP3 and blocked by ryanodine. Activation mechanisms are conserved between InsP3R and RyR. Allosteric modulation of two similar domain interfaces within an N-terminal subunit re-orients the first domain (SD or A-domain), allowing it, via interactions of the second domain of an adjacent subunit (IBC-β or B-domain), to gate the pore.
doi:10.1038/nature10751
PMCID: PMC3378505  PMID: 22286060
3.  CRH-stimulated cortisol release and food intake in healthy, non-obese adults 
Psychoneuroendocrinology  2009;35(4):607-612.
Summary
Background
There is considerable anecdotal and some scientific evidence that stress triggers eating behavior, but underlying physiological mechanisms remain uncertain. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a key mediator of physiological stress responses and may play a role in the link between stress and food intake. Cortisol responses to laboratory stressors predict consumption but it is unclear whether such responses mark a vulnerability to stress-related eating or whether cortisol directly stimulates eating in humans.
Methods
We infused healthy adults with corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) at a dose that is subjectively undetectable but elicits a robust endogenous cortisol response, and measured subsequent intake of snack foods, allowing analysis of HPA reactivity effects on food intake without the complex psychological effects of a stress paradigm.
Results
CRH elevated cortisol levels relative to placebo but did not impact subjective anxious distress. Subjects ate more following CRH than following placebo and peak cortisol response to CRH was strongly related to both caloric intake and total consumption.
Conclusions
These data show that HPA axis reactivity to pharmacological stimulation predicts subsequent food intake and suggest that cortisol itself may directly stimulate food consumption in humans. Understanding the physiological mechanisms that underlie stress-related eating may prove useful in efforts to attack the public health crises created by obesity.
doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.09.017
PMCID: PMC2843773  PMID: 19828258
stress; cortisol; CRH; appetite; HPA
4.  Cognitive modulation of endocrine responses to CRH stimulation in healthy subjects 
Psychoneuroendocrinology  2009;35(3):451-459.
Summary
Background
The hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis is critical for biobehavioral adaptation to challenge and appears dysregulated in a range of psychiatric disorders. Its precise role in psychopathology remains unclear and discrepant and difficult to explain findings abound in the clinical literature. Basic research suggests this system is sensitive to psychosocial cues, but psychosocial milieu factors are rarely controlled or examined in psychiatric studies using biological probes of the HPA axis. To test the hypothesis that psychological factors might complicate HPA study results even in direct, pharmacological challenge paradigms, endocrine responses to corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) were examined under two different cognitive preparation conditions.
Methods
Healthy subjects (n=32) received standard instructions or a cognitive intervention (CI) prior to injection with CRH and placebo, given on separate days in random order. The CI combined access to control over drug exposure with novelty reduction and coping enhancement. Blood samples were obtained via intravenous catheter before and after CRH.
Results
Cognitive intervention reduced corticotropin (ACTH) levels, but only when CRH was given first (intervention by order interaction). It did not reduce cortisol response. The CI and visit (1st or 2nd) both impacted cortisol levels on placebo day.
Conclusions
Modifiable psychological factors may amplify or inhibit HPA axis activity in pharmacological activation paradigms, including CRH stimulation tests. The factors manipulated by the CI (novelty/familiarity, control and coping) may have particular salience to the HPA axis. Differential sensitivity to such factors could impact results in studies applying biological HPA probes to psychiatric populations.
doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.08.007
PMCID: PMC2824051  PMID: 19758763
stress; cortisol; ACTH, corticotropin-releasing hormone; control; coping
5.  Effects of perceived control and cognitive coping on endocrine stress responses to pharmacological activation 
Biological psychiatry  2008;64(8):701-707.
Background
The hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis may mediate negative health effects of stress. It is sensitive to cognitive/emotional factors like novelty, perceived control and coping. Psychological intervention that reduces novelty, and enhances cognitive coping and sense of control can reduce cortisol responses to pentagastrin, a pharmacological HPA activator. This study attempted to identify the core factors that modulate HPA axis activity in this model.
Methods
Varying instructions were administered prior to drug exposure in a two-visit (placebo first) pentagastrin infusion paradigm. Healthy subjects (n=40) were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 instruction groups: (1) Standard instruction (SI); (2) Full cognitive intervention (CI); (3) The CI control component alone; or (4) The CI novelty reduction/coping components alone. Blood samples were obtained via intravenous catheter before and after pentagastrin.
Results
Subjects receiving an intervention had smaller cortisol responses than subjects receiving standard instructions. “Coping” alone had as strong an impact as the more complex intervention that combined “coping” and “control.” “Control alone” also reduced cortisol but its HPA impact appeared less robust.
Conclusions
Brief psychological manipulation can significantly reduce HPA activation in challenge paradigms. Cognitive preparation that focused on side effects, reduced potential surprise and enhanced cognitive coping modulated HPA axis activity as effectively as a previously tested intervention that combined coping and control manipulations. A sense of control alone also reduced cortisol release. The results support development of “control” or “coping” techniques to combat negative health effects of stress that are mediated by HPA axis activation.
doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.05.007
PMCID: PMC2579765  PMID: 18571624
stress; cortisol; pentagastrin; control; coping; anxiety
6.  Effect of time of preparation on pentagastrin-induced symptom, endocrine and cardiovascular responses 
Psychiatry research  2008;158(2):141-146.
Pentagastrin is a cholecystokinin (CCK)-B agonist and laboratory panicogen producing endocrine (ACTH and cortisol), symptom (anxiety, panic) and cardiovascular (heart rate) responses. Although in vitro data supports its chemical stability, preliminary data suggested that increasing time between drug preparation and drug infusion could reduce the magnitude of endocrine and symptom responses. The current study examined this possibility. Twenty-one healthy subjects presented at the University of Michigan General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) and had an intravenous catheter inserted. Heart rate, cortisol levels and subjective anxiety were measured before and after pentagastrin and placebo injections. Pentagastrin was prepared either within 60 minutes of IV infusion (Normal Preparation group) or at least 3.5 h prior to infusion (Early Preparation group). Relative to the Normal Preparation group, Early Preparation subjects had similar heart rate responses but significantly smaller cortisol and subjective anxiety responses. Early preparation of pentagastrin thus appears to weaken endocrine and subjective anxiety responses, highlighting the importance of attending to often overlooked procedural variables (e.g., time between preparation and administration) in studies of this type. The sensitivity of cortisol and anxiety responses to preparation time, but insensitivity of heart rate, is consistent with previous studies suggesting different thresholds of activation for the three response modalities. These differential sensitivities may suggest different and separable CCK-B stimulated pathways for each response, which combine to produce panic, rather than a single, unified CCK-B mediated panicogenic response.
doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2007.10.020
PMCID: PMC2290743  PMID: 18222546
Pentagastrin; CCK; HPA; cortisol; anxiety; panic

Results 1-6 (6)