MicroRNA-27a/b regulates cellular cholesterol efflux, influx and esterification/hydrolysis in THP-1 macrophages

Atherosclerosis. 2014 May;234(1):54-64. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2014.02.008. Epub 2014 Feb 21.


Rationale: Macrophage cholesterol homeostasis maintenance is the result of a balance between influx, endogenous synthesis, esterification/hydrolysis and efflux. Excessive accumulation of cholesterol leads to foam cell formation, which is the major pathology of atherosclerosis. Previous studies have shown that miR-27 (miR-27a and miR-27b) may play a key role in the progression of atherosclerosis.

Objective: We set out to investigate the molecular mechanisms of miR-27a/b in intracellular cholesterol homeostasis.

Methods and results: In the present study, our results have shown that the miR-27 family is highly conserved during evolution, present in mammals and directly targets the 3' UTR of ABCA1, LPL, and ACAT1. apoA1, ABCG1 and SR-B1 lacking miR-27 bind sites should not be influenced by miR-27 directly. miR-27a and miR-27b directly regulated the expression of endogenous ABCA1 in different cells. Treatment with miR-27a and miR-27b mimics reduced apoA1-mediated cholesterol efflux by 33.08% and 44.61% in THP-1 cells, respectively. miR-27a/b also regulated HDL-mediated cholesterol efflux in THP-1 macrophages and affected the expression of apoA1 in HepG2 cells. However, miR-27a/b had no effect on total cellular cholesterol accumulation, but regulated the levels of cellular free cholesterol and cholesterol ester. We further found that miR-27a/b regulated the expression of LPL and CD36, and then affected the ability of THP-1 macrophages to uptake Dil-oxLDL. Finally, we identified that miR-27a/b regulated cholesterol ester formation by targeting ACAT1 in THP-1 macrophages.

Conclusion: These findings indicate that miR-27a/b affects the efflux, influx, esterification and hydrolysis of cellular cholesterol by regulating the expression of ABCA1, apoA1, LPL, CD36 and ACAT1.

Keywords: ABCA1; ACAT1; Atherosclerosis; CD36; Cholesterol homeostasis; LPL; apoA1; miR-27a/b.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Esterification
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*


  • MIRN27 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Cholesterol