Regulation of cholesterol and bile acid homeostasis by the cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase/steroid response element-binding protein 2/microRNA-33a axis in mice


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.

  • This work was supported by grants R37DK058379 and R01DK044442 (to J.Y.L.C.) from the National Institute of Diabetes Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health. J.F. is an awardee of the National Research Service Award (F32 DK096784).

Address reprint requests to: John Chiang, Ph.D., Department of Integrative Medical Sciences, Northeast Ohio Medical University, 4209 State Route 44, Rootstown, OH 44272. E-mail:; fax: 330-325-5910.


Bile acid synthesis not only produces physiological detergents required for intestinal nutrient absorption, but also plays a critical role in regulating hepatic and whole-body metabolic homeostasis. We recently reported that overexpression of cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase (CYP7A1) in the liver resulted in improved metabolic homeostasis in Cyp7a1 transgenic (Cyp7a1-tg) mice. This study further investigated the molecular links between bile acid metabolism and lipid homeostasis. Microarray gene profiling revealed that CYP7A1 overexpression led to marked activation of the steroid response element-binding protein 2 (SREBP2)-regulated cholesterol metabolic network and absence of bile acid repression of lipogenic gene expression in livers of Cyp7a1-tg mice. Interestingly, Cyp7a1-tg mice showed significantly elevated hepatic cholesterol synthesis rates, but reduced hepatic fatty acid synthesis rates, which was accompanied by increased 14C-glucose-derived acetyl-coenzyme A incorporation into sterols for fecal excretion. Induction of SREBP2 also coinduces intronic microRNA-33a (miR-33a) in the SREBP2 gene in Cyp7a1-tg mice. Overexpression of miR-33a in the liver resulted in decreased bile acid pool, increased hepatic cholesterol content, and lowered serum cholesterol in mice. Conclusion: This study suggests that a CYP7A1/SREBP2/miR-33a axis plays a critical role in regulation of hepatic cholesterol, bile acid, and fatty acid synthesis. Antagonism of miR-33a may be a potential strategy to increase bile acid synthesis to maintain lipid homeostasis and prevent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes, and obesity. (Hepatology 2013;53:1111–1121)