miRNA as molecular target of polyphenols underlying their biological effects

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Polyphenols are the most abundant antioxidants in the human diet and are widespread constituents of fruits and beverages, such as tea, coffee, and wine. Epidemiological, clinical, and animal studies support a role of polyphenols in the prevention of various chronic diseases. For a long time, their direct antioxidant effect has been reported as the mechanism responsible for the observed health properties. However, recent findings revealed that polyphenols could interact with cellular signaling cascades regulating the activity of transcription factors and consequently affecting the expression of genes. Together with this classical regulatory pathway, polyphenols have been shown to affect the expression of microRNAs (miRNA). miRNAs are small, noncoding RNAs implicated in the regulation of gene expression that control both physiological and pathological processes such as development and cancer. Furthermore, expression of miRNAs can be affected by different external stimuli including nutrients such as vitamins, lipids, and phytochemicals. In this paper, we review studies assessing modulation of miRNAs expression by dietary polyphenols that could constitute a new pathway by which these compounds may exert their health effects. Over 100 miRNAs, involved in the control of different cellular processes such as inflammation or apoptosis, were identified as modulated by polyphenols. Most of the studies were performed in vitro using different cell lines, particularly cancer cell lines, and few studies were performed in animals. From all these data, miRNAs appear as interesting mediators in regulating polyphenols' biological effects; however, further studies are needed to validate miRNA targets and particularly in physiologically relevant conditions taking into account the bioavailability of dietary polyphenols.

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