Regulation of Metabolic Processes by Micrornas and Class I Histone Deacetylases
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Obesity is a medical condition resulting from accumulation of excess body fat that affects more than 30% of the adult population in the U.S. Obesity-related pathological conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Despite the high incidence and the elevated social costs, the molecular basis of obesity and associated metabolic syndrome are still poorly understood. Yet, the need for novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment and prevention of obesity remains. In humans and animal model of disease, hallmarks of obesity include dysregulation of genes involved in mitochondrial function, lipid uptake and lipid storage. The dynamic and modifiable regulation of transcriptional pathways that control mitochondrial function and adipogenesis, as well as additional aspects of mammalian metabolism, will provide new approaches for pharmacological intervention in obesity. Thus, the modulation of epigenetic histone modifications and microRNA functions represents a potentially powerful approach for the treatment of metabolic disorders. We show that the Ppargc1b gene, which encodes the PGC-1β protein, also co-transcribes two microRNAs, miR-378 and miR-378*. Mice lacking miR-378/378* are resistant to high fat diet-induced obesity and display enhanced mitochondrial fatty acid metabolism and elevated oxidative capacity of insulin-target tissues. Taken together, our findings reveal that miR-378 and miR-378* function as integral components of the regulatory circuit formed by PGC-1beta and nuclear hormone receptors to control the overall oxidative capacity and energy homeostasis of insulin-target tissues. MiR-378/378* mutant mice do not display overt phenotypes under normal laboratory conditions, whereas their phenotypes become apparent under conditions of stress, in this case in response to excessive caloric intake. Thus, pharmacological modulation of miR-378/378* function might represent an effective approach in the treatment of obesity. In obese humans and mice, the unused caloric energy resulting from excessive net caloric intake is converted to triglycerides and stored in adipocytes for further usage. Lipid accumulation within adipocytes is under the control of a cascade of transcription factors that interact with histone acetyltransferases and deacetylases. We show that histone deacetylase inhibitors efficiently block adipocyte differentiation in vitro. Furthermore, through a loss-of-function approach, we provide evidence that histone deacetylases 1 and 2 play redundant and requisite roles in adipogenesis. In conclusion, we unveiled previously unrecognized roles for miR-378/378* in the control of mitochondrial metabolism and energy homeostasis, and for histone deacetylases in the control of adipocyte differentiation.