MicroRNA regulatory networks in human adipose tissue and obesity

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2015 May;11(5):276-88. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2015.25. Epub 2015 Mar 3.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression and, therefore, biological processes in different tissues. A major function of miRNAs in adipose tissue is to stimulate or inhibit the differentiation of adipocytes, and to regulate specific metabolic and endocrine functions. Numerous miRNAs are present in human adipose tissue; however, the expression of only a few is altered in individuals with obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus or are differentially expressed in various adipose depots. In humans, obesity is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation that is regulated by signal transduction networks, in which miRNAs, either directly or indirectly (through regulatory elements such as transcription factors), influence the expression and secretion of inflammatory proteins. In addition to their diverse effects on signalling, miRNAs and transcription factors can interact to amplify the inflammatory effect. Although additional miRNA signal networks in human adipose tissue are not yet known, similar regulatory circuits have been described in brown adipose tissue in mice. miRNAs can also be secreted from fat cells into the circulation and serve as markers of disturbed adipose tissue function. Given their role in regulating transcriptional networks, miRNAs in adipose tissue might offer tangible targets for treating metabolic disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipogenesis
  • Adipose Tissue / cytology
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Chemokine CCL2 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • CCL2 protein, human
  • Chemokine CCL2
  • MicroRNAs
  • Transcription Factors