Cell Biology

Have miRNA, Will Travel

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Science  08 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6026, pp. 150-151
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6026.150-c

MicroRNAs (miRNAs), small noncoding RNAs encoded in the genomes of many eukaryotes, have a pervasive role in regulating gene expression. miRNAs normally act cell-autonomously, but increasing evidence suggests that they might also act far from their site of synthesis.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) particles facilitate the transport of lipids, and other biomolecules, in the bloodstream. Given that lipid-based transport of RNAs can be used as a systemic delivery system, Vickers et al. investigated the nucleic acid component of HDL and found that they are able to carry miRNAs. The profile of these miRNAs differed between healthy individuals and individuals suffering from familial hypercholesterolemia (which can lead to atherosclerosis), an effect also seen in a mouse model for atherosclerosis. HDL loaded with exogenous miRNAs was able to modulate the expression of specific miRNA target genes when added to tissue-culture cells. Indeed, the changes in gene expression in cells exposed to HDL from individuals with familial hypercholesterolemia were enriched for genes involved in lipid metabolism, inflammation, and atherosclerosis, which suggests that some of the HDL miRNAs may play a direct role in disease progression.

Nat. Cell Biol. 13, 10.1038/ncb2210 (2011).

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