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PLoS One. 2016 Apr 21;11(4):e0152545. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0152545. eCollection 2016.

Circulating MicroRNA Responses between 'High' and 'Low' Responders to a 16-Wk Diet and Exercise Weight Loss Intervention.

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Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, Centre for Exercise and Nutrition, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia.
Department of Sports Nutrition, Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australia.
Exercise Metabolism Research Group, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.
Bond Institute of Health and Sport and Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom.



Interactions between diet, physical activity and genetic predisposition contribute to variable body mass changes observed in response to weight loss interventions. Circulating microRNAs (c-miRNAs) may act as 'biomarkers' that are associated with the rate of change in weight loss, and/or play a role in regulating the biological variation, in response to energy restriction.


To quantify targeted c-miRNAs with putative roles in energy metabolism and exercise adaptations following a 16 wk diet and exercise intervention in individuals with large (high responders; HiRes) versus small (low responders; LoRes) losses in body mass.


From 89 male and female overweight/obese participants who completed the intervention (energy restriction from diet, 250 kcal/d, and exercise, 250 kcal/d), subgroups of HiRes (>10% body mass loss, n = 22) and LoRes (<5% body mass loss, n = 18) were identified. From resting plasma samples collected after an overnight fast pre and post intervention, RNA was extracted, quantified and reverse transcribed. Thirteen c-miRNA selected a priori were analysed using a customised 96-well miScript miRNA PCR Array.


Loss of body mass (-11.0 ± 2.3 kg vs. -3.0 ± 1.3 kg; P<0.01) and fat mass (-11.1 ± 2.6 kg vs. -3.9 ± 1.6 kg; P<0.01) was greater for HiRes than LoRes (P<0.001). Expression of c-miR-935 was higher in LoRes compared to HiRes pre- (~47%; P = 0.025) and post- (~100%; P<0.01) intervention and was the only c-miRNA differentially expressed at baseline between groups. The abundance of c-miR-221-3p and -223-3p increased pre- to post-intervention in both groups (~57-69% and ~25-90%, P<0.05). There was a post-intervention increase in c-miR-140 only in LoRes compared to HiRes (~23%, P = 0.016).


The differential expression and responses of selected c-miRNAs in overweight/obese individuals to an exercise and diet intervention suggests a putative role for these 'biomarkers' in the prediction or detection of individual variability to weight loss interventions.

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