Circular RNA Profiling and Bioinformatic Modeling Identify Its Regulatory Role in Hepatic Steatosis

Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:5936171. doi: 10.1155/2017/5936171. Epub 2017 Jun 21.


Circular RNAs (circRNAs) exhibit a wide range of physiological and pathological activities. To uncover their role in hepatic steatosis, we investigated the expression profile of circRNAs in HepG2-based hepatic steatosis induced by high-fat stimulation. Differentially expressed circRNAs were subjected to validation using QPCR and functional analyses using principal component analysis, hierarchical clustering, target prediction, gene ontology (GO), and pathway annotation, respectively. Bioinformatic integration established the circRNA-miRNA-mRNA regulatory network so as to identify the mechanisms underlying circRNAs' metabolic effect. Here we reported that hepatic steatosis was associated with a total of 357 circRNAs. Enrichment of transcription-related GOs, especially GO: 0006355, GO: 004589, GO: 0045944, GO: 0045892, and GO: 0000122, demonstrated their specific actions in transcriptional regulation. Lipin 1 (LPIN1) was recognized to mediate the transcriptional regulatory effect of circRNAs on metabolic pathways. circRNA-miRNA-mRNA network further identified the signaling cascade of circRNA_021412/miR-1972/LPIN1, which was characterized by decreased level of circRNA_021412 and miR-1972-based inhibition of LPIN1. LPIN1-induced downregulation of long chain acyl-CoA synthetases (ACSLs) expression finally resulted in the hepatosteatosis. These findings identify circRNAs to be important regulators of hepatic steatosis. Transcription-dependent modulation of metabolic pathways may underlie their effects, partially by the circRNA_021412/miR-1972/LPIN1 signaling.

MeSH terms

  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Fatty Liver / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • RNA, Circular
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Circular
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA