Ethanol consumption produces a small increase in circulating miR-122 in healthy individuals

Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2016;54(1):53-5. doi: 10.3109/15563650.2015.1112015. Epub 2015 Nov 17.


Introduction: MicroRNA 122 (miR-122) is a new circulating biomarker for liver injury, which increases earlier than conventional markers in patients with acetaminophen hepatotoxicity. However, as co-ingestion of ethanol is common with drug overdose, a confounding effect of acute ethanol consumption on serum miR-122 must be examined.

Methods: Blood was collected from healthy volunteers before and after recreational consumption of ethanol. Routine biochemistry and haematology measurements were performed, and serum miR-122 was measured by qPCR. The primary outcome was the difference in serum miR-122 with ethanol consumption.

Results: We recruited 18 participants (72% male). Their mean serum ethanol concentration was 113 mg/dl (95% confidence interval [CI] 91-135 mg/dl) after consuming ethanol. Serum miR-122 increased from a mean of 71.3 million (95% CI 29.3-113.2 million) to 139.1 million (95% CI 62.6-215.7 million) copies/ml (2.2-fold increase). There was no significant difference in serum alanine aminotransferase activity before and after ethanol consumption.

Conclusion: miR-122 increased with moderate ethanol consumption, but the fold change was modest. As increases with acetaminophen toxicity are 100- to 10 000-fold, moderate ethanol intoxication is unlikely to confound the use of this biomarker of hepatotoxicity.

Keywords: Biomarkers; ethanol; microRNA; toxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / blood
  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics*
  • Blood Alcohol Content
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / blood
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Up-Regulation
  • Young Adult


  • Blood Alcohol Content
  • MIRN122 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Ethanol