School of Medicine Publications and Presentations

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Plasma low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (plasma LDL-C), vascular endothelial cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), particularly monocytes, play key roles in initiating atherosclerosis, the primary cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Although the mechanisms underlying development of atherosclerosis are not well understood, LDL-C is known to influence expression of endothelial microRNAs (miRNAs) and gene-targets of miRNAs to promote cell senescence. However, the impact of LDL-C on expression of PBMC miRNAs and miRNA targeted genes in response to an atherogenic diet is not known. In this study, we used unbiased methods to identify coordinately responsive PBMC miRNA- gene networks that differ between low and high LDL-C baboons when fed a high-cholesterol, high-fat (HCHF) diet.

Methods and results

Using RNA Seq, we quantified PBMC mRNAs and miRNAs from half-sib baboons discordant for LDL-C plasma concentrations (low LDL-C, n = 3; high LDL-C, n = 3) before and after a 7-week HCHF diet challenge. For low LDL-C baboons, 626 genes exhibited significant change in expression (255 down-regulated, 371 up-regulated) in response to the HCHF diet, and for high LDL-C baboons 379 genes exhibited significant change in expression (162 down-regulated, 217 up-regulated) in response to the HCHF diet. We identified 494 miRNAs identical to human miRNAs and 47 novel miRNAs. Fifty miRNAs were differentially expressed in low LDL-C baboons (21 up- and 29 down-regulated) and 20 in high LDL-C baboons (11 up- and 9 down-regulated) in response to the HCHF diet. Among the differentially expressed miRNAs were miR-221/222 and miR-34a-3p, which were down-regulated, and miR-148a/b-5p, which was up-regulated. In addition, gene-targets of these miRNAs, VEGFA, MAML3, SPARC, and DMGDH, were inversely expressed and are central hub genes in networks and signaling pathways that differ between low and high LDL-C baboon HCHF diet response.


We have identified coordinately regulated HCHF diet-responsive PBMC miRNA-gene networks that differ between baboons discordant for LDL-C concentrations. Our findings provide potential insights into molecular mechanisms underlying initiation of atherosclerosis where LDL-C concentrations influence expression of specific miRNAs, which in turn regulate expression of genes that play roles in initiation of lesions.


© 2019 Karere et al.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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PLoS One

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Mentor/PI Department

Office of Human Genetics



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