A comprehensive review of miR-21 in liver disease: Big impact of little things

Int Immunopharmacol. 2024 Jun 15:134:112116. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2024.112116. Epub 2024 May 1.


microRNAs (miRNAs), a class of non-coding RNA with 20-24 nucleotides, are defined as the powerful regulators for gene expression. miR-21 is a multifunctional miRNA enriched in the circulatory system and multiple organs, which not only serves as a non-invasive biomarker in disease diagnosis, but also participates in many cellular activities. In various chronic liver diseases, the increase of miR-21 affects glycolipid metabolism, viral infection, inflammatory and immune cell activation, hepatic stellate cells activation and tissue fibrosis, and autophagy. Moreover, miR-21 is also a liaison in the deterioration of chronic liver disease to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and it impacts on cell proliferation, apoptosis, migration, invasion, angiogenesis, immune escape, and epithelial-mesenchymal transformation by regulating target genes expression in different signaling pathways. In current research on miRNA therapy, some natural products can exert the hepatoprotective effects depending on the inhibition of miR-21 expression. In addition, miR-21-based therapeutic also play a role in regulating intracellular miR-21 levels and enhancing the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs. Herein, we systemically summarized the recent progress of miR-21 on biosynthesis, biomarker function, molecular mechanism and miRNA therapy in chronic liver disease and HCC, and looked forward to outputting some information to enable it from bench to bedside.

Keywords: Biomarker; Chronic liver disease; Hepatocellular carcinoma; miR-21.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / immunology
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases* / genetics
  • Liver Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Liver Neoplasms* / immunology
  • Liver Neoplasms* / therapy
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics


  • MicroRNAs
  • MIRN21 microRNA, human
  • Biomarkers