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MicroRNA-33 and the SREBP Host Genes Cooperate to Control Cholesterol Homeostasis

Science  18 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5985, pp. 1566-1569
DOI: 10.1126/science.1189123

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miR-33 in Cholesterol Control

With the well-established link between serum cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease and the availability of effective cholesterol-lowering drugs, cholesterol screening has rapidly become a routine part of health care. Yet, much remains to be learned about how cholesterol levels are regulated at the cellular level (see the Perspective by Brown et al.). Now, Najafi-Shoushtari et al. (p. 1566, published online 13 May) and Rayner et al. (p. 1570, published online 13 May) have discovered a new molecular player in cholesterol control—a small noncoding RNA that, intriguingly, is embedded within the genes coding for sterol regulatory element-binding proteins (SREBPs), transcription factors already known to regulate cholesterol levels. This microRNA, called miR-33, represses expression of the adenosine triphosphate–binding cassette transporter A1, a protein that regulates synthesis of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol) and that helps to remove “bad” cholesterol from the blood. Reducing the levels of miR-33 in mice boosted serum HDL levels, suggesting that manipulation of this regulatory circuit might be therapeutically useful.

Abstract

Proper coordination of cholesterol biosynthesis and trafficking is essential to human health. The sterol regulatory element–binding proteins (SREBPs) are key transcription regulators of genes involved in cholesterol biosynthesis and uptake. We show here that microRNAs (miR-33a/b) embedded within introns of the SREBP genes target the adenosine triphosphate–binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1), an important regulator of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) synthesis and reverse cholesterol transport, for posttranscriptional repression. Antisense inhibition of miR-33 in mouse and human cell lines causes up-regulation of ABCA1 expression and increased cholesterol efflux, and injection of mice on a western-type diet with locked nucleic acid–antisense oligonucleotides results in elevated plasma HDL. Our findings indicate that miR-33 acts in concert with the SREBP host genes to control cholesterol homeostasis and suggest that miR-33 may represent a therapeutic target for ameliorating cardiometabolic diseases.

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