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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Oct 2;109(40):16137-42. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1205951109. Epub 2012 Sep 17.

Aberrantly elevated microRNA-34a in obesity attenuates hepatic responses to FGF19 by targeting a membrane coreceptor β-Klotho.

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Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


MicroRNA-34a (miR-34a) is the most highly elevated hepatic miR in obese mice and is also substantially elevated in patients who have steatosis, but its role in obesity and metabolic dysfunction remains unclear. After a meal, FGF19 is secreted from the ileum; binds to a hepatic membrane receptor complex, FGF19 receptor 4 and coreceptor β-Klotho (βKL); and mediates postprandial responses under physiological conditions, but hepatic responses to FGF19 signaling were shown to be impaired in patients with steatosis. Here, we show an unexpected functional link between aberrantly elevated miR-34a and impaired βKL/FGF19 signaling in obesity. In vitro studies show that miR-34a down-regulates βKL by binding to the 3' UTR of βKL mRNA. Adenoviral-mediated overexpression of miR-34a in mice decreased hepatic βKL levels, impaired FGF19-activated ERK and glycogen synthase kinase signaling, and altered expression of FGF19 metabolic target genes. Consistent with these results, βKL levels were decreased and hepatic responses to FGF19 were severely impaired in dietary obese mice that have elevated miR-34a. Remarkably, in vivo antisense inhibition of miR-34a in obese mice partially restored βKL levels and improved FGF19 target gene expression and metabolic outcomes, including decreased liver fat. Further, anti-miR-34a treatment in primary hepatocytes of obese mice restored FGF19-activated ERK and glycogen synthase kinase signaling in a βKL-dependent manner. These results indicate that aberrantly elevated miR-34a in obesity attenuates hepatic FGF19 signaling by directly targeting βKL. The miR-34a/βKL/FGF19 axis may present unique therapeutic targets for FGF19-related human diseases, including metabolic disorders and cancer.

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