Patients with abdominal aortic aneurysms have reduced levels of microRNA 122-5p in circulating exosomes

PLoS One. 2023 Feb 14;18(2):e0281371. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0281371. eCollection 2023.


Objective: There are currently no specific biomarkers to identify patients with abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs). Circulating exosomes contain microRNAs (miRNA) that are potential biomarkers for the presence of disease. This study aimed to characterize the exosomal miRNA expression profile of patients with AAAs in order to identify novel biomarkers of disease.

Methods: Patients undergoing duplex ultrasound (US) or computed tomography (CT) for screening or surveillance of an AAA were screened to participate in the study. Cases with AAA were defined as having a max aortic diameter >3 cm. Circulating plasma exosomes were isolated using Cushioned-Density Gradient Ultracentrifugation and total RNA was extracted. Next Generation Sequencing was performed on the Illumina HiSeq4000 SE50. Differential miRNA expression analysis was performed using DESeq2 software with a Benjamini-Hochberg correction. MicroRNA expression profiles were validated by Quantitative Real-Time PCR.

Results: A total of 109 patients were screened to participate in the study. Eleven patients with AAA and 15 non-aneurysmal controls met study criteria and were enrolled. Ultrasound measured aortic diameter was significantly larger in the AAA group (mean maximum diameter 4.3 vs 2.0 cm, P = 6.45x10-6). More AAA patients had coronary artery disease (5/11 vs 1/15, P = 0.05) as compared to controls, but the groups did not differ significantly in the rates of peripheral arterial disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A total of 40 miRNAs were differentially expressed (P<0.05). Of these, 18 miRNAs were downregulated and 22 were upregulated in the AAA group compared to controls. After false discovery rate (FDR) adjustment, only miR-122-5p was expressed at significantly different levels in the AAA group compared to controls (fold change = 5.03 controls vs AAA; raw P = 1.8x10-5; FDR P = 0.02).

Conclusion: Plasma exosomes from AAA patients have significantly reduced levels of miRNA-122-5p compared to controls. This is a novel exosome-associated miRNA that warrants further investigation to determine its use as a diagnostic biomarker and potential implications in AAA pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aortic Aneurysm, Abdominal* / diagnostic imaging
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Abdominal* / genetics
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Abdominal* / metabolism
  • Biomarkers
  • Exosomes* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • MicroRNAs
  • Biomarkers
  • MIRN122 microRNA, human

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the San Francisco Health Plan’s (SFHP) PIP Practice Improvement Program and the Department of Surgery at UCSF to A.O. Adam Oskowitz. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.