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PLoS One. 2014 May 21;9(5):e98313. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0098313. eCollection 2014.

Niacin in pharmacological doses alters microRNA expression in skeletal muscle of obese Zucker rats.

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Institute of Animal Nutrition and Nutrition Physiology, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, Giessen, Germany.


Administration of pharmacological niacin doses was recently reported to have pronounced effects on skeletal muscle gene expression and phenotype in obese Zucker rats, with the molecular mechanisms underlying the alteration of gene expression being completely unknown. Since miRNAs have been shown to play a critical role for gene expression through inducing miRNA-mRNA interactions which results in the degradation of specific mRNAs or the repression of protein translation, we herein aimed to investigate the influence of niacin at pharmacological doses on the miRNA expression profile in skeletal muscle of obese Zucker rats fed either a control diet with 30 mg supplemented niacin/kg diet or a high-niacin diet with 780 mg supplemented niacin/kg diet for 4 wk. miRNA microarray analysis revealed that 42 out of a total of 259 miRNAs were differentially expressed (adjusted P-value <0.05), 20 being down-regulated and 22 being up-regulated, between the niacin group and the control group. Using a biostatistics approach, we could demonstrate that the most strongly up-regulated (log2 ratio ≥0.5) and down-regulated (log2 ratio ≤-0.5) miRNAs target approximately 1,800 mRNAs. Gene-term enrichment analysis showed that many of the predicted target mRNAs from the most strongly regulated miRNAs were involved in molecular processes dealing with gene transcription such as DNA binding, transcription regulator activity, transcription factor binding and in important regulatory pathways such as Wnt signaling and MAPK signaling. In conclusion, the present study shows for the first time that pharmacological niacin doses alter the expression of miRNAs in skeletal muscle of obese Zucker rats and that the niacin-regulated miRNAs target a large set of genes and pathways which are involved in gene regulatory activity indicating that at least some of the recently reported effects of niacin on skeletal muscle gene expression and phenotype in obese Zucker rats are mediated through miRNA-mRNA interactions.

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