Activation of microRNA-378a-3p biogenesis promotes hepatic secretion of VLDL and hyperlipidemia by modulating ApoB100-Sortilin1 axis

Tianpeng Zhang, Hongtao Shi, Ningning Liu, Jing Tian, Xiaoling Zhao, Clifford J. Steer, Qinghua Han, Guisheng Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Rationale: Hyperlipidemia is a major risk factor of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases (CVD). As a standard-of-care approach for hyperlipidemia, statins only reduce the risk of coronary artery disease by 20-40%, underscoring the importance of identifying molecular pathways for the design of drugs against this disorder. Alterations in microRNA (miRNA) expression have been reported in patients with hyperlipidemia and CVD. This study was designed to determine the mechanism of dysregulated miR-378a-3p under the status of hyperlipidemia and evaluate how miR-378a-3p regulates hepatic secretion of VLDL. Methods: Wild-type mice kept on a high fat diet were injected with miR-378a-3p inhibitor or a mini-circle expression system containing miR-378a precursor to study loss and gain-of functions of miR-378a-3p. Mice were treated with Triton WR1339 and 35S-methionine/cysteine to determine the effect of miR-378a-3p on hepatic secretion of VLDL. Database mining, luciferase assay, and ChIP (chromatin immunoprecipitation) were used to study the mechanism of dysregulated miR-378a-3p biogenesis. Results: miR-378a-3p expression is significantly increased in livers of hyperlipidemic mice. Sort1 (sortilin 1) was identified as a direct target of miR-378a-3p. By inhibiting the function of sortilin 1 as a transmembrane trafficking receptor, miR-378a-3p stabilized ApoB100 and promoted ApoB100 secretion in vitro. Liver-specific expression of miR-378a-3p stabilized ApoB100 and facilitated hepatic secretion of VLDL, which subsequently increased levels of VLDL/LDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides. In contrast, antagonizing miR-378a-3p using its inhibitor increased hepatic expression of Sort1 and reduced hepatic export of VLDL with its consequent effects of serum lipid levels. Additional knockdown of up-regulated Sort1 in livers of mice offset the effects of miR-378a-3p inhibitor, suggesting that Sort1 was indispensable for miR-378a-3p to promote secretion of VLDL and thereby high levels of circulating VLDL/LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Furthermore, oncogenic E2F1 (E2F transcription factor 1) was identified as a transcriptional activator of miR-378a-3p. E2f1 knockdown, through reducing miR-378a-3p, impaired secretion of VLDL and reduced levels of VLDL/LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Conclusions: This study defines a novel pathway of E2F1-miR-378a-3p-SORT1-ApoB100 that controls levels of circulating VLDL/LDL cholesterol and triglycerides by modulating degradation and secretion of ApoB100, and suggests the use of miR-378a-3p as a potential therapeutic target for dyslipidemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3952-3966
Number of pages15
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was partially supported to G.S. by the Research Scholar Grant (ISG-16-210-01-RMC) from the American Cancer Society.

Publisher Copyright:
© The author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.


  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Lipoprotein
  • MicroRNA


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