Leptin suppresses microRNA-122 promoter activity by phosphorylation of foxO1 in hepatic stellate cell contributing to leptin promotion of mouse liver fibrosis

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Adipocytokine leptin promotes hepatic stellate cell (HSC) activation (a key step in liver fibrogenesis) and liver fibrosis. microRNA-122 (miR-122) is the most abundant liver-specific miRNA and was demonstrated to inhibit liver fibrosis and reduced HSC proliferation. Our previous study revealed that leptin reduced miR-122 level in HSCs. This study was aimed to investigate whether leptin affected miR-122 promoter and the underlying mechanisms in HSCs. Results showed that leptin inhibited miR-122 promoter activity. Forkhead box protein O1(FoxO1) bound to miR-122 promoter at a site around – 56 and thus promoted miR-122 promoter activity, which could be suppressed by leptin-induced phosphorylation of FoxO1 at serine 256. The PI3K/Akt signaling pathway was involved in leptin-induced phosphorylation of FoxO1 and the effect of leptin on miR-122 expression. Furthermore, FoxO1 increased miR-122 and pri-miR-122 (primary miR-122) levels in HSCs in vivo, and reduced leptin-induced HSC activation and liver fibrosis in ob/ob mouse (leptin deficient) model. In conclusion, leptin suppressed microRNA-122 expression by PI3K/Akt/foxO1 axis in HSCs. These results have potential implications for clarifying the mechanisms for liver fibrogenesis in obese patients with hyperleptinaemia.Graphical abstractHighlightsLeptin inhibits miR-122 promoter activity in hepatic stellate cells (HSCs).FoxO1 binds to miR-122 promoter and promotes miR-122 promoter activity.PI3K/Akt mediates the effects of leptin on FoxO1 phosphorylation and miR-122 levels.FoxO1 increases miR-122 level and reduces leptin roles in HSC and liver fibrosis.

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