Epigenetic regulation of MicroRNA-122 by peroxisome proliferator activated receptor-gamma and hepatitis b virus X protein in hepatocellular carcinoma cells


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


MicroRNA-122 (miR-122), a pivotal liver-specific miRNA, has been implicated in several liver diseases including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and hepatitis C and B viral infection. This study aimed to explore epigenetic regulation of miR-122 in human HCC cells and to examine the effect of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV). We performed microRNA microarray analysis and identified miR-122 as the most up-regulated miRNA (6-fold) in human HCC cells treated with 5′aza-2′deoxycytidine (5-Aza-CdR, DNA methylation inhibitor) and 4-phenylbutyric acid (PBA, histone deacetylation inhibitor). Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis verified significant up-regulation of miR-122 by 5′aza and PBA in HCC cells, and to a lesser extent in primary hepatocytes. Peroxisome proliferator activated receptor-gamma (PPARγ) and retinoid X receptor alpha (RXRα) complex was found to be associated with the DR1 and DR2 consensus site in the miR-122 gene promoter which enhanced miR-122 gene transcription. 5-Aza-CdR and PBA treatment increased the association of PPARγ/RXRα, but decreased the association of its corepressors (N-CoR and SMRT), with the miR-122 DR1 and DR2 motifs. The aforementioned DNA-protein complex also contains SUV39H1, an H3K9 histone methyl transferase, which down-regulates miR-122 expression. Conclusions: These findings establish a novel role of the PPARγ binding complex for epigenetic regulation of miR-122 in human HCC cells. Moreover, we show that hepatitis B virus X protein binds PPARγ and inhibits the transcription of miR-122, whereas hepatitis C viral particles exhibited no significant effect; these findings provide mechanistic insight into reduction of miR-122 in patients with HBV but not with HCV infection. (Hepatology 2013;58:1681–1692)