Nuclear-mitochondrial communication involving miR-181c plays an important role in cardiac dysfunction during obesity

Barbara Roman, Pawandeep Kaur, Deepthi Ashok, Mark Kohr, Roopa Biswas, Brian O'Rourke, Charles Steenbergen, Samarjit Das

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: In cardiomyocytes, there is microRNA (miR) in the mitochondria that originates from the nuclear genome and matures in the cytoplasm before translocating into the mitochondria. Overexpression of one such miR, miR-181c, can lead to heart failure by stimulating reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and increasing mitochondrial calcium level ([Ca2+]m). Mitochondrial calcium uptake 1 protein (MICU1), a regulatory protein in the mitochondrial calcium uniporter complex, plays an important role in regulating [Ca2+]m. Obesity results in miR-181c overexpression and a decrease in MICU1. We hypothesize that lowering miR-181c would protect against obesity-induced cardiac dysfunction. Methods and results: We used an in vivo mouse model of high-fat diet (HFD) for 18 weeks and induced high lipid load in H9c2 cells with oleate-conjugated bovine serum albumin in vitro. We tested the cardioprotective role of lowering miR-181c by using miR-181c/d−/− mice (in vivo) and AntagomiR against miR-181c (in vitro). HFD significantly upregulated heart levels of miR-181c and led to cardiac hypertrophy in wild-type mice, but not in miR-181c/d−/− mice. HFD also increased ROS production and pyruvate dehydrogenase activity (a surrogate for [Ca2+]m), but the increases were alleviated in miR-181c/d−/− mice. Moreover, miR-181c/d−/− mice fed a HFD had higher levels of MICU1 than did wild-type mice fed a HFD, attenuating the rise in [Ca2+]m. Overexpression of miR-181c in neonatal ventricular cardiomyocytes (NMVM) caused increased ROS production, which oxidized transcription factor Sp1 and led to a loss of Sp1, thereby slowing MICU1 transcription. Hence, miR-181c increases [Ca2+]m through Sp1 oxidation and downregulation of MICU1, suggesting that the cardioprotective effect of miR-181c/d−/− results from inhibition of Sp1 oxidation. Conclusion: This study has identified a unique nuclear-mitochondrial communication mechanism in the heart orchestrated by miR-181c. Obesity-induced overexpression of miR-181c increases [Ca2+]m via downregulation of MICU1 and leads to cardiac injury. A strategy to inhibit miR-181c in cardiomyocytes can preserve cardiac function during obesity by improving mitochondrial function. Altering miR-181c expression may provide a pharmacologic approach to improve cardiomyopathy in individuals with obesity/type 2 diabetes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-96
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • MICU1
  • Mitochondria
  • Mitochondrial calcium
  • Obesity
  • miR-181c
  • microRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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