Nutrition, microRNAs, and human health

Juan Cui, Beiyan Zhou, Sharon A. Ross, Janos Zempleni

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


MicroRNAs (miRs) hybridize with complementary sequences in mRNA and silence genes by destabilizingmRNA or preventing translation of mRNA. Over 60% of human protein-coding genes are regulated by miRs, and 1881 high-confidence miRs are encoded in the human genome. Evidence suggests that miRs not only are synthesized endogenously, but also might be obtained from dietary sources, and that food compounds alter the expression of endogenousmiR genes. Themain food matrices for studies of biological activity of dietarymiRs include plant foods and cowmilk. Encapsulation ofmiRs in exosomes and exosome-like particles confers protection against RNA degradation and creates a pathway for intestinal and vascular endothelial transport by endocytosis, as well as delivery to peripheral tissues. Evidence suggests that the amount of miRs absorbed from nutritionally relevant quantities of foods is sufficient to elicit biological effects, and that endogenous synthesis of miRs is insufficient to compensate for dietary miR depletion and rescue wild-type phenotypes. In addition, nutrition alters the expression of endogenous miR genes, thereby compounding the effects of nutritionmiR interactions in gene regulation and disease diagnosis in liquid biopsies. For example, food components and dietary preferences may modulate serum miR profiles that may influence biological processes. The complex crosstalk between nutrition, miRs, and gene targets poses a challenge to gene network analysis and studies of human disease. Novel pipelines and databases have been developed recently, including a dietary miR database for archiving reported miRs in 15 dietary resources. miRs derived from diet and endogenous synthesis have been implicated in physiologic and pathologic conditions, including those linked with nutrition and metabolism. In fact, several miRs are actively regulated in response to overnutrition and tissue inflammation, and are involved in facilitating the development of chronic inflammation by modulating tissue-infiltrated immune cell function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-112
Number of pages8
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017


  • Bioinformatics
  • Dietary microRNA
  • MicroRNA
  • Milk
  • Nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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