An altered expression of miR-376a-3p and miR-20a-5p in peripheral blood exosomes regulates the autophagy and inflammatory systemic substrates, and relates to the smoking habit and age in Crohn's disease

FASEB J. 2024 Jan 31;38(2):e23418. doi: 10.1096/fj.202301761R.


miRNAs are short single-stranded noncoding RNAs that participate as epigenetic regulators in inflammatory bowel disease. Most miRNAs detectable in serum are concentrated in exosomes, with relevant cargo for immunobiological processes. We set to evaluate the exosomes miRNAs content in the serum of patients with Crohn's disease (CD) and run a prospective observational study on CD patients on biological monotherapy and healthy controls. miRNA cargo was evaluated in peripheral blood-derived exosomes. Serum autophagy and inflammatory substrates were measured. Patients were followed for 6 months. Patients (n = 28) showed an overexpression of miR-376a-3p and a downregulation of miR-20a-5p compared to controls (n = 10), without significant differences between patients according to biologics. Serum autophagy substrates ATG4C (r = .57; p = .001) and ACRV1C (r = .66; p = .001) inversely correlated with miR-376a-3p expression, whereas IGF1R correlated with miR-20a-5p expression (r = .42; p = .02). Th1-related cytokines correlated with miR-376a-3p expression, whereas the Th17-associated cytokines inversely correlated with miR-20a-5p expression. Smoking (β = -2.301 CI 95% -3.790/-0.811, p = .004) remained as independent factor related to the overexpression of miR-376a-3p, whereas diagnosis before 16 years of age (β = 2.044 CI 95% 0.934/3.154, p = .001) and a younger age of patients (β = -.720 CI 95% -0.108/-0.035, p = .001) were related to decreased miR-20a-5p expression. Seven patients (25%) had a flare in the 6-month follow-up. Patients with overexpression of miR-376a-3p at the baseline showed an increased risk of flare during this period (OR 0.475 [0.237-0.950], p = .035). Finally, a comparative miRNA signature between biologic monotherapies was also explored. Targeting miR-376a-3p and miR-20a-5p epigenetic regulators may yield homeostatic effects on relevant biological processes related to disease progression in CD patients.

Keywords: Crohn's disease; autophagy; cytokines; miRNA; smoking.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autophagy / genetics
  • Crohn Disease* / genetics
  • Cytokines
  • Exosomes*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • RNA, Small Untranslated*
  • Smoking


  • MIRN376A1 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Small Untranslated
  • Cytokines