MicroRNAs as Regulators of Insulin Signaling: Research Updates and Potential Therapeutic Perspectives in Type 2 Diabetes

Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Nov 22;19(12):3705. doi: 10.3390/ijms19123705.


The insulin signaling pathway is composed of a large number of molecules that positively or negatively modulate insulin specific signal transduction following its binding to the cognate receptor. Given the importance of the final effects of insulin signal transduction, it is conceivable that many regulators are needed in order to tightly control the metabolic or proliferative functional outputs. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNA molecules that negatively modulate gene expression through their specific binding within the 3'UTR sequence of messenger RNA (mRNA), thus causing mRNA decoy or translational inhibition. In the last decade, miRNAs have been addressed as pivotal cellular rheostats which control many fundamental signaling pathways, including insulin signal transduction. Several studies demonstrated that multiple alterations of miRNAs expression or function are relevant for the development of insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes (T2D); such alterations have been highlighted in multiple insulin target organs including liver, muscles, and adipose tissue. Indirectly, miRNAs have been identified as modulators of inflammation-derived insulin resistance, by controlling/tuning the activity of innate immune cells in insulin target tissues. Here, we review main findings on miRNA functions as modulators of insulin signaling in physiologic- or in T2D insulin resistance- status. Additionally, we report the latest hypotheses of prospective therapies involving miRNAs as potential targets for future drugs in T2D.

Keywords: diabetes mellitus; insulin; insulin signaling; microRNAs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • RNAi Therapeutics
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Insulin
  • MicroRNAs