Downregulation of miR-181a upregulates sirtuin-1 (SIRT1) and improves hepatic insulin sensitivity

Diabetologia. 2012 Jul;55(7):2032-43. doi: 10.1007/s00125-012-2539-8. Epub 2012 Apr 4.


Aims/hypothesis: Sirtuin-1 (SIRT1) is a potential therapeutic target to combat insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. This study aims to identify a microRNA (miRNA) targeting SIRT1 to regulate hepatic insulin sensitivity.

Methods: Luciferase assay combined with mutation and immunoblotting was used to screen and verify the bioinformatically predicted miRNAs. miRNA and mRNA levels were measured by real-time PCR. Insulin signalling was detected by immunoblotting and glycogen synthesis. Involvement of SIRT1 was studied with adenovirus, inhibitor and SIRT1-deficient hepatocytes. The role of miR-181a in vivo was explored with adenovirus and locked nucleic acid antisense oligonucleotides.

Results: miR-181a targets the 3' untranslated region (3'UTR) of Sirt1 mRNA through a miR-181a binding site, and downregulates SIRT1 protein abundance at the translational level. miR-181a is increased in insulin-resistant cultured hepatocytes and liver, and in the serum of diabetic patients. Overexpression of miR-181a decreases SIRT1 protein levels and activity, and causes insulin resistance in hepatic cells. Inhibition of miR-181a by antisense oligonucleotides increases SIRT1 protein levels and activity, and improves insulin sensitivity in hepatocytes. Ectopic expression of SIRT1 abrogates the effect of miR-181a on insulin sensitivity, and inhibition of SIRT1 activity or SIRT1 deficiency markedly attenuated the improvement in insulin sensitivity induced by antisense miR-181a. In addition, overexpression of miR-181a by adenovirus impairs hepatic insulin signalling, and intraperitoneal injection of locked nucleic acid antisense oligonucleotides for miR-181a improves glucose homeostasis in diet-induced obesity mice.

Conclusions/interpretation: miR-181a regulates SIRT1 and improves hepatic insulin sensitivity. Inhibition of miR-181a might be a potential new strategy for treating insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions / genetics
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Down-Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Sirtuin 1 / genetics
  • Sirtuin 1 / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation*


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger
  • mirn181 microRNA, mouse
  • Sirt1 protein, mouse
  • Sirtuin 1