MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNAs that posttranscriptionally regulate gene expression. Their aberrant expression is commonly linked with diseased states, including hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Herein, we demonstrate that HCV replication induces the expression of miR-27 in cell culture and in vivo HCV infectious models. Overexpression of the HCV proteins core and NS4B independently activates miR-27 expression. Furthermore, we establish that miR-27 overexpression in hepatocytes results in larger and more abundant lipid droplets, as observed by coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) microscopy. This hepatic lipid droplet accumulation coincides with miR-27b's repression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-α and angiopoietin-like protein 3 (ANGPTL3), known regulators of triglyceride homeostasis. We further demonstrate that treatment with a PPAR-α agonist, bezafibrate, is able to reverse the miR-27b-induced lipid accumulation in Huh7 cells. This miR-27b-mediated repression of PPAR-α signaling represents a novel mechanism of HCV-induced hepatic steatosis. This link was further demonstrated in vivo through the correlation between miR-27b expression levels and hepatic lipid accumulation in HCV-infected SCID-beige/Alb-uPa mice.
Conclusion: Collectively, our results highlight HCV's up-regulation of miR-27 expression as a novel mechanism contributing to the development of hepatic steatosis.
© 2013 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.