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PLoS One. 2013 Oct 15;8(10):e77251. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077251. eCollection 2013.

Serum circulating microRNA profiling for identification of potential type 2 diabetes and obesity biomarkers.

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Spanish Biomedical Research Centre in Diabetes and Associated Metabolic Disorders (CIBERDEM), Madrid, Spain ; Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria del Hospital Clínico San Carlos (IdISSC), Madrid, Spain.



MicroRNAs are small non-coding RNAs that play important regulatory roles in a variety of biological processes, including complex metabolic processes, such as energy and lipid metabolism, which have been studied in the context of diabetes and obesity. Some particular microRNAs have recently been demonstrated to abundantly and stably exist in serum and to be potentially disease-specific. The aim of this profiling study was to characterize the expression of miRNA in serum samples of obese, nonobese diabetic and obese diabetic individuals to determine whether miRNA expression was deregulated in these serum samples and to identify whether any observed deregulation was specific to either obesity or diabetes or obesity with diabetes.


Thirteen patients with type 2 diabetes, 20 obese patients, 16 obese patients with type 2 diabetes and 20 healthy controls were selected for this study. MiRNA PCR panels were employed to screen serum levels of 739 miRNAs in pooled samples from these four groups. We compared the levels of circulating miRNAs between serum pools of each group. Individual validation of the twelve microRNAs selected as promising biomarkers was carried out using RT-qPCR.


Three serum microRNAs, miR-138, miR-15b and miR-376a, were found to have potential as predictive biomarkers in obesity. Use of miR-138 or miR-376a provides a powerful predictive tool for distinguishing obese patients from normal healthy controls, diabetic patients, and obese diabetic patients. In addition, the combination of miR-503 and miR-138 can distinguish diabetic from obese diabetic patients.


This study is the first to show a panel of serum miRNAs for obesity, and compare them with miRNAs identified in serum for diabetes and obesity with diabetes. Our results support the use of some miRNAs extracted from serum samples as potential predictive tools for obesity and type 2 diabetes.

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