• The increased activity of a transcription factor inhibits autophagy in diabetic embryopathy

      Xu, C.; Chen, X.; Reece, E.A. (Mosby Inc., 2019)
      Background: Maternal diabetes induces neural tube defects and stimulates the activity of the forkhead box O3 (Fox)O3a in the embryonic neuroepithelium. We previously demonstrated that deleting the FOXO3a gene ameliorates maternal diabetes-induced neural tube defects. Macroautophagy (hereafter referred to as "autophagy") is essential for neurulation. Rescuing autophagy suppressed by maternal diabetes in the developing neuroepithelium inhibits neural tube defect formation in diabetic pregnancy. This evidence suggests a possible link between FoxO3a and impaired autophagy in diabetic embryopathy. Objective: We aimed to determine whether maternal diabetes suppresses autophagy through FoxO3a, and if the transcriptional activity of FoxO3a is required for the induction of diabetic embryopathy. Study Design: We used a well-established type 1 diabetic embryopathy mouse model, in which diabetes was induced by streptozotocin, for our in vivo studies. To determine if FoxO3a mediates the inhibitory effect of maternal diabetes on autophagy in the developing neuroepithelium, we induced diabetic embryopathy in FOXO3a gene knockout mice and FoxO3a dominant negative transgenic mice. Embryos were harvested at embryonic day 8.5 to determine FoxO3a and autophagy activity and at embryonic day 10.5 for the presence of neural tube defects. We also examined the expression of autophagy-related genes. C17.2 neural stem cells were used for in vitro examination of the potential effects of FoxO3a on autophagy. Results: Deletion of the FOXO3a gene restored the autophagy markers, lipidation of microtubule-associated protein 1A/1B-light chain 3I to light chain 3II, in neurulation stage embryos. Maternal diabetes decreased light chain 3I-positive puncta number in the neuroepithelium, which was restored by deleting FoxO3a. Maternal diabetes also decreased the expression of positive regulators of autophagy (Unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase 1, Coiled-coil myosin-like BCL2-interacting protein, and autophagy-related gene 5) and the negative regulator of autophagy, p62. FOXO3a gene deletion abrogated the dysregulation of autophagy genes. In vitro data showed that the constitutively active form of FoxO3a mimicked high glucose in repressing autophagy. In cells cultured under high-glucose conditions, overexpression of the dominant negative FoxO3a mutant blocked autophagy impairment. Dominant negative FoxO3a overexpression in the developing neuroepithelium restored autophagy and significantly reduced maternal diabetes-induced apoptosis and neural tube defects. Conclusion: Our study revealed that diabetes-induced FoxO3a activation inhibited autophagy in the embryonic neuroepithelium. We also observed that FoxO3a transcriptional activity mediated the teratogenic effect of maternal diabetes because dominant negative FoxO3a prevents maternal diabetes-induced autophagy impairment and neural tube defect formation. Our findings suggest that autophagy activators could be therapeutically effective in treating maternal diabetes-induced neural tube defects.