Metabolic Circuit Involving Free Fatty Acids, microRNA 122, and Triglyceride Synthesis in Liver and Muscle Tissues

Chofit Chai, Mila Rivkin, Liav Berkovits, Alina Simerzin, Elina Zorde-Khvalevsky, Nofar Rosenberg, Shiri Klein, Dayana Yaish, Ronen Durst, Shoshana Shpitzen, Shiran Udi, Joseph Tam, Joerg Heeren, Anna Worthmann, Christoph Schramm, Johannes Kluwe, Revital Ravid, Eran Hornstein, Hilla Giladi, Eithan Galun*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Background & Aims Effective treatments are needed for hepatic steatosis characterized by accumulation of triglycerides in hepatocytes, which leads to hepatocellular carcinoma. MicroRNA 122 (MIR122) is expressed only in the liver, where it regulates lipid metabolism. We investigated the mechanism by which free fatty acids (FFAs) regulate MIR122 expression and the effect of MIR122 on triglyceride synthesis. Methods We analyzed MIR122 promoter activity and validated its target mRNAs by transfection of Luciferase reporter plasmids into Huh7, BNL-1ME, and HEK293 cultured cell lines. We measured levels of microRNAs and mRNAs by quantitative real-time PCR analysis of RNA extracted from plasma, liver, muscle, and adipose tissues of C57BL/6 mice given the FFA-inducer CL316243. MIR122 was inhibited using an inhibitor of MIR122. Metabolic profiles of mice were determined using metabolic chambers and by histologic analyses of liver tissues. We performed RNA sequence analyses to identify metabolic pathways involving MIR122. Results We validated human Agpat1 and Dgat1 mRNAs, involved in triglyceride synthesis, as targets of MIR122. FFAs increased MIR122 expression in livers of mice by activating the retinoic acid-related orphan receptor alpha, and induced secretion of MIR122 from liver to blood. Circulating MIR122 entered muscle and adipose tissues of mice, reducing mRNA levels of genes involved in triglyceride synthesis. Mice injected with an inhibitor of MIR122 and then given CL316243, accumulated triglycerides in liver and muscle tissues, and had reduced rates of β-oxidation. There was a positive correlation between level of FFAs and level of MIR122 in plasma samples from 6 healthy individuals, collected before and during fasting. Conclusions In biochemical and histologic studies of plasma, liver, muscle, and adipose tissues from mice, we found that FFAs increase hepatic expression and secretion of MIR122, which regulates energy storage vs expenditure in liver and peripheral tissues. Strategies to reduce triglyceride levels, by increasing MIR122, might be developed for treatment of metabolic syndrome.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1404-1415
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 AGA Institute


  • NASH
  • Posttranscriptional regulation
  • Transcription Factor


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