Infection with Schistosoma causes aberrant expression of host microRNAs (miRNAs), and normalizing the levels of dysregulated miRNAs can attenuate pathology. Here, we show that the host miRNA, miR-96, is markedly upregulated during the progression of hepatic schistosomiasis. We demonstrate that elevation of miR-96 induces hepatic fibrosis in infected mice by suppressing the expression of its target gene, Smad7. We show that infection with Schistosoma induces the expression of transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1), which in turn upregulates the expression of miR-96 through SMAD2/3-DROSHA-mediated post-transcriptional regulation. Furthermore, inhibition of miR-96 with recombinant adeno-associated virus 8 (rAAV8)-mediated delivery of Tough Decoy RNAs in mice attenuated hepatic fibrosis and prevented lethality following schistosome infection. Taken together, our data highlight the potential for rAAV8-mediated inhibition of miR-96 as a therapeutic strategy to treat hepatic schistosomiasis.
Keywords: TGF-β/Smad7; hepatic stellate cell; microRNA; schistosomiasis.