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Genes Nutr. 2020 Feb 4;15:2. doi: 10.1186/s12263-020-0660-8. eCollection 2020.

Inflexibility of the plasma miRNA response following a high-carbohydrate meal in overweight insulin-resistant women.

Author information

1The Liggins Institute, The University of Auckland, 85 Park Road, Grafton, Private Bag, 92019, Auckland, 1142 New Zealand.
2The Riddet Institute, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
3School of Medical Sciences, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.
4Food Nutrition & Health Team, AgResearch Ltd, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
The High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge, Auckland, New Zealand.
6Institute of Food Science and Technology, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
7Clinical Nutrition Research Centre, Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore, 117609 Singapore.
8School of Kinesiology, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
9Food & Bio-Based Products Group, AgResearch Ltd, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
10Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (ASTAR), Singapore, 117609 Singapore.



Metabolic inflexibility is a characteristic of insulin resistance, limiting the ability to transiently regulate oxidative metabolism and gene expression in response to nutrient availability. Little is known of the flexibility of post-transcriptional regulation, including circulatory miRNAs (c-miRNAs).


The abundances of targeted c-miRNAs, with reported functions in metabolic regulation, were analysed in response to a high-carbohydrate meal in healthy weight insulin-sensitive (IS) and overweight insulin-resistant (IR) women.


Age-matched healthy weight IS (n = 20, BMI = 24.3 ± 0.70) and overweight IR (n = 20, BMI = 28.6 ± 0.67) women.


An abundance of c-miRNAs was quantified prior to and following a high-carbohydrate breakfast meal (2500 kJ; 50% carbohydrate, 20% fat and 27% protein). Target genes of the differentially regulated c-miRNA were measured in RNA extracted from circulatory peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs).


In healthy weight IS women, both miR-15a-5p (p = 0.03) and miR-17-5p (p < 0.01) levels were halved at 4 h post-meal. These miRNA remained unaltered following the same meal in the overweight IR women. Furthermore, amongst genes targeted by these miRNA, CPT1A (p = 0.01) and IL8 (p = 0.03) had also reduced expression 4 h post-meal only in the healthy weight IS women.


The study findings provide preliminary evidence for a possible extension of metabolic inflexibility to include c-miRNAs.

Trial registration:

The clinical trial is registered with Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry under Trial registration: ANZCTR: ACTRN12615001108505. Registered on 21 October 2015.


Gene expression; Metabolic inflexibility; Noncoding-RNA; PBMCs; Substrate switching

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interestsThe authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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