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Sci Rep. 2016 Apr 5;6:23709. doi: 10.1038/srep23709.

Mechanistically linked serum miRNAs distinguish between drug induced and fatty liver disease of different grades.

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Division of Bioinformatics and Biostatistics, National Center for Toxicological Research, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Jefferson, Arkansas, USA.
Centre for Pharmacology and Toxicology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.


Hepatic steatosis is characterised by excessive triglyceride accumulation in the form of lipid droplets (LD); however, mechanisms differ in drug induced (DIS) and/or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Here we hypothesized distinct molecular circuits of microRNA/LD-associated target genes and searched for mechanistically linked serum and tissue biomarkers that would distinguish between DIS and human NAFLD of different grades. We analysed >800 rat hepatic whole genome data for 17 steatotic drugs and identified 157 distinct miRNAs targeting 77 DIS regulated genes. Subsequently, genomic data of N = 105 cases of human NAFLD and N = 32 healthy controls were compared to serum miRNA profiles of N = 167 NAFLD patients. This revealed N = 195 tissue-specific miRNAs being mechanistically linked to LD-coding genes and 24 and 9 miRNAs were commonly regulated in serum and tissue of advanced and mild NAFLD, respectively. The NASH serum regulated miRNAs informed on hepatic inflammation, adipocytokine and insulin signalling, ER-and caveolae associated activities and altered glycerolipid metabolism. Conversely, serum miRNAs associated with blunt steatosis specifically highlighted activity of FOXO1&HNF4α on CPT2, the lipid droplet and ER-lipid-raft associated PLIN3 and Erlin1. Altogether, serum miRNAs informed on the molecular pathophysiology of NAFLD and permitted differentiation between DIS and NAFLD of different grades.

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