MicroRNA expression in relation to different dietary habits: a comparison in stool and plasma samples.
Mutagenesis. 2014 Sep ;29(5):385-91. PMID: 25150024
MicroRNAs (miRNAs), a class of small non-coding RNAs, are fundamental for the post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. Altered expression of miRNAs has been detected in cancers, not only in primary tissue but also in easily obtainable specimens like plasma and stools. miRNA expression is known to be modulated by diet (micro and macronutrients, phytochemicals) and possibly by other lifestyle factors; however, such influence has not yet been exhaustively explored in humans. In the present study, we analysed the expression levels of a panel of seven human miRNAs in plasma and stool samples of a group of 24 healthy individuals characterised by different dietary habits (eight vegans, eight vegetarians and eight subjects with omnivorous diet, all groups with similar age and sex distribution). The dual aim of the study was to identify possible differences in miRNA expression due to diet (or other lifestyle factors recorded from questionnaires) and to compare results in both types of specimens. miR-92a was differentially expressed in both plasma and stool samples and with the same trend, among the three groups with different diets (P = 0.0002 and P = 0.02, respectively, with expression levels of vegans>vegetarians>omnivores). miR-92a was also associated with low body mass index (P = 0.04 and P = 0.05, respectively) in both types of specimens, and with several dietary factors. Other analysed miRNAs (miR-16, miR-21, mir-34a and miR-222) were associated with dietary and lifestyle factors, but not consistently in both stool and plasma. Our pilot study provides the first evidence of miRNA modulation by diet and other factors, that can be detected consistently in both plasma and stools samples.