Decrease of microRNA-122 causes hepatic insulin resistance by inducing protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B, which is reversed by licorice flavonoid

Hepatology. 2012 Dec;56(6):2209-20. doi: 10.1002/hep.25912.


Protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B) inhibits hepatic insulin signaling by dephosphorylating tyrosine residues in insulin receptor (IR) and insulin receptor substrate (IRS). MicroRNAs may modulate metabolic functions. In view of the lack of understanding of the regulatory mechanism of PTP1B and its chemical inhibitors, this study investigated whether dysregulation of specific microRNA causes PTP1B-mediated hepatic insulin resistance, and if so, what the underlying basis is. In high-fat-diet-fed mice or hepatocyte models with insulin resistance, the expression of microRNA-122 (miR-122), the most abundant microRNA in the liver, was substantially down-regulated among those predicted to interact with the 3'-untranslated region of PTP1B messenger RNA (mRNA). Experiments using miR-122 mimic and its inhibitor indicated that miR-122 repression caused PTP1B induction. Overexpression of c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1) resulted in miR-122 down-regulation with the induction of PTP1B. A dominant-negative mutant of JNK1 had the opposite effect. JNK1 facilitated inactivating phosphorylation of hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α (HNF4α) responsible for miR-122 expression, as verified by the lack of HNF4α binding to the gene promoter. The regulatory role of JNK1 in PTP1B induction by a decrease in miR-122 level was strengthened by cell-based assays using isoliquiritigenin and liquiritigenin (components in Glycyrrhizae radix) as functional JNK inhibitors; JNK inhibition enabled cells to restore IR and IRS1/2 tyrosine phosphorylation and insulin signaling against tumor necrosis factor alpha, and prevented PTP1B induction. Moreover, treatment with each of the agents increased miR-122 levels and abrogated hepatic insulin resistance in mice fed a high-fat diet, causing a glucose-lowering effect.

Conclusion: Decreased levels of miR-122 as a consequence of HNF4α phosphorylation by JNK1 lead to hepatic insulin resistance through PTP1B induction, which may be overcome by chemical inhibition of JNK.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • 3T3-L1 Cells
  • Animals
  • Chalcones / pharmacology
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Down-Regulation
  • Flavanones / pharmacology
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4 / metabolism
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins / drug effects
  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / drug effects
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 8 / genetics
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 8 / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase, Non-Receptor Type 1 / genetics
  • Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase, Non-Receptor Type 1 / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Chalcones
  • Flavanones
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4
  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins
  • Irs1 protein, mouse
  • Irs2 protein, mouse
  • MicroRNAs
  • Mirn122 microRNA, mouse
  • RNA, Messenger
  • isoliquiritigenin
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 8
  • Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase, Non-Receptor Type 1
  • liquiritigenin