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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41291. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041291. Epub 2012 Jul 18.

MicroRNA-122 down-regulation is involved in phenobarbital-mediated activation of the constitutive androstane receptor.

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  • 1Department of Biochemical Toxicology, Showa University School of Pharmacy, Tokyo, Japan.

Erratum in

  • PLoS One. 2013;8(1). doi:10.1371/annotation/75898a72-dfcb-4002-b749-8c04d78ba6e1.


Constitutive androstane receptor (CAR) is a nuclear receptor that regulates the transcription of target genes, including CYP2B and 3A. Phenobarbital activates CAR, at least in part, in an AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK)-dependent manner. However, the precise mechanisms underlying phenobarbital activation of AMPK are still unclear. In the present study, it was demonstrated that phenobarbital administration to mice decreases hepatic miR-122, a liver-enriched microRNA involved in both hepatic differentiation and function. The time-course change in the phenobarbital-mediated down-regulation of miR-122 was inversely correlated with AMPK activation. Phenobarbital decreased primary miR-122 to approximately 25% of the basal level as early as 1 h and suppressed transactivity of mir-122 promoter in HuH-7 cells, suggesting that the down-regulation occurred at the transcriptional level. AMPK activation by metformin or 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide 1-β-D-ribonucleoside had no evident effect on miR-122 levels. An inhibitory RNA specific for miR-122 increased activated AMPK and CAR-mediated trancactivation of the phenobarbital-responsive enhancer module in HepG2 cells. Conversely, the reporter activity induced by the ectopic CAR was almost completely suppressed by co-transfection with the miR-122 mimic RNA. GFP-tagged CAR was expressed in the cytoplasm in addition to the nucleus in the majority of HuH-7 cells in which miR-122 was highly expressed. Co-transfection of the mimic or the inhibitor RNA for miR-122 further increased or decreased, respectively, the number of cells that expressed GFP-CAR in the cytoplasm. Taken together, these results suggest that phenobarbital-mediated down-regulation of miR-122 is an early and important event in the AMPK-dependent CAR activation and transactivation of its target genes.

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