MicroRNA expression analysis in high fat diet-induced NAFLD-NASH-HCC progression: study on C57BL/6J mice

Alessandra Tessitore*, Germana Cicciarelli, Filippo Del Vecchio, Agata Gaggiano, Daniela Verzella, Mariafausta Fischietti, Valentina Mastroiaco, Antonella Vetuschi, Roberta Sferra, Remo Barnabei, Daria Capece, Francesca Zazzeroni, Edoardo Alesse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common malignant tumor of the liver. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a frequent chronic liver disorder in developed countries. NAFLD can progress through the more severe non alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), cirrhosis and, lastly, HCC. Genetic and epigenetic alterations of coding genes as well as deregulation of microRNAs (miRNAs) activity play a role in HCC development. In this study, the C57BL/6J mouse model was long term high-fat (HF) or low-fat (LF) diet fed, in order to analyze molecular mechanisms responsible for the hepatic damage progression. Methods: Mice were HF or LF diet fed for different time points, then plasma and hepatic tissues were collected. Histological and clinical chemistry assays were performed to assess the progression of liver disease. MicroRNAs' differential expression was evaluated on pooled RNAs from tissues, and some miRNAs showing dysregulation were further analyzed at the individual level. Results: Cholesterol, low and high density lipoproteins, triglycerides and alanine aminotransferase increase was detected in HF mice. Gross anatomical examination revealed hepatomegaly in HF livers, and histological analysis highlighted different degrees and levels of steatosis, inflammatory infiltrate and fibrosis in HF and LF animals, demonstrating the progression from NAFLD through NASH. Macroscopic nodules, showing typical neoplastic features, were observed in 20A % of HF diet fed mice. Fifteen miRNAs differentially expressed in HF with respect to LF hepatic tissues during the progression of liver damage, and in tumors with respect to HF non tumor liver specimens were identified. Among them, miR-340-5p, miR-484, miR-574-3p, miR-720, whose expression was never described in NAFLD, NASH and HCC tissues, and miR-125a-5p and miR-182, which showed early and significant dysregulation in the sequential hepatic damage process. Conclusions: In this study, fifteen microRNAs which were modulated in hepatic tissues and in tumors during the transition NAFLD-NASH-HCC are reported. Besides some already described, new and early dysregulated miRNAs were identified. Functional analyses are needed to validate the results here obtained, and to better define the role of these molecules in the progression of the hepatic disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
JournalBMC cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 5 2016


  • HCC
  • High fat diet
  • Low fat diet
  • MicroRNA
  • NASH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'MicroRNA expression analysis in high fat diet-induced NAFLD-NASH-HCC progression: study on C57BL/6J mice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this