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. 2011 May;15(5):623-36.
doi: 10.1517/14728222.2011.561317. Epub 2011 Feb 28.

MicroRNAs in Adipogenesis and as Therapeutic Targets for Obesity

Free PMC article

MicroRNAs in Adipogenesis and as Therapeutic Targets for Obesity

Ryan Alexander et al. Expert Opin Ther Targets. .
Free PMC article


Introduction: Obesity and obesity-related disease have reached pandemic proportions and are prevalent even in developing countries. Adipose tissue is increasingly being recognized as a key regulator of whole-body energy homeostasis and consequently as a prime therapeutic target for metabolic syndrome. This review discusses the roles of miRNAs, small endogenously expressed RNAs that regulate gene expression at a post-transcriptional level, in the development and function of adipose tissue and other relevant metabolic tissues impacted by obesity. Several high-throughput studies have identified hundreds of miRNAs that are differentially expressed during the development of metabolic tissues or as an indication of pathophysiology. Further investigation has functionalized the regulatory capacity of individual miRNAs and revealed putative targets for these miRNAs. Therefore, as with several other pathologies, miRNAs are emerging as feasible therapeutic targets for metabolic syndrome.

Areas covered: This review provides a comprehensive view of miRNAs involved in adipogenesis, from mesenchymal stem cell lineage determination through terminal adipocyte differentiation. We also discuss the differential expression of miRNAs among adipose depots and the dysregulation of miRNAs in other metabolic tissues during metabolic pathophysiology. Finally, we discuss the therapeutic potential of targeting miRNAs in obesity and give a perspective on the challenges and advantages of miRNA-based drugs.

Expert opinion: miRNAs are extensive regulators of adipocyte development and function and are viable therapeutic targets for obesity. Despite the broad-spectrum and redundancy of miRNA-target interactions, sophisticated bioinformatic approaches are making it possible to determine the most physiologically relevant miRNAs to target in disease. In vivo delivery of miRNAs for therapeutic purposes is rapidly developing and has been successful in other contexts. Additionally, miRNAs can be used as prognosis markers for disease onset and progression. Ultimately, miRNAs are prime therapeutic targets for obesity and its consequent pathologies in other metabolic tissues.

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose. Work on this subject in our lab is supported by grant DK068348 from NIH.

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