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Front Microbiol. 2014 Mar 18;5:102. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00102. eCollection 2014.

The microRNAs as potential biomarkers for predicting the onset of aflatoxin exposure in human beings: a review.

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Evaluación de Riesgos Ambientales, Facultad de Agrobiología, Universidad Autónoma de Tlaxcala Tlaxcala, México.
Departamento de Investigación en Ciencias Agrícolas, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla Puebla, México.
Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Texas AgriLife, Texas A&M University College Station, TX, USA.
Departamento de Ciencias Ambientales, Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Distrito Federal, México.
Laboratorio de Patología Experimental, Hospital Infantil de México Federico Gómez Distrito Federal, México.


The identification of aflatoxins as human carcinogens has stimulated extensive research efforts, which continue to the present, to assess potential health hazards resulting from contamination of the human food supply and to minimize exposure. The use of biomarkers that are mechanistically supported by toxicological studies will be important tools for identifying stages in the progression of development of the health effects of environmental agents. miRNAs are small non-coding mRNAs that regulate post-transcriptional gene expression. Also, they are molecular markers of cellular responses to various chemical agents. Growing evidence has demonstrated that environmental chemicals can induce changes in miRNA expression. miRNAs are good biomarkers because they are well defined, chemically uniform, restricted to a manageable number of species, and stable in cells and in the circulation. miRNAs have been used as serological markers of HCC and other tumors. The expression patterns of different miRNAs can distinguish among HCC-hepatitis viruses related, HCC cirrhosis-derivate, and HCC unrelated to either of them. The main objective of this review is to find unreported miRNAs in HCC related to other causes, so that they can be used as specific molecular biomarkers in populations exposed to aflatoxins and as early markers of exposure, damage/presence of HCC. Until today specific miRNAs as markers for aflatoxins-exposure and their reliability are currently lacking. Based on their elucidated mechanisms of action, potential miRNAs that could serve as possible markers of HCC by exposure to aflatoxins are miR-27a, miR-27b, miR-122, miR-148, miR-155, miR-192, miR-214, miR-221, miR-429, and miR-500. Future validation for all of these miRNAs will be needed to assess their prognostic significance and confirm their relationship with the induction of HCC due to aflatoxin exposure.


AFB1; HCC; aflatoxin exposure; microRNAs; potential biomarkers

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