The let-7 microRNA enhances heme oxygenase-1 by suppressing Bach1 and attenuates oxidant injury in human hepatocytes

Weihong Hou, Qing Tian, Nury M Steuerwald, Laura W Schrum, Herbert L Bonkovsky
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 2012, 1819 (11-12): 1113-22
The let-7 microRNA (miRNA) plays important roles in human liver development and diseases such as hepatocellular carcinoma, liver fibrosis and hepatitis wherein oxidative stress accelerates the progression of these diseases. To date, the role of the let-7 miRNA family in modulation of heme oxygenase 1 (HMOX1), a key cytoprotective enzyme, remains unknown. Our aims were to determine whether let-7 miRNA directly regulates Bach1, a transcriptional repressor of the HMOX1 gene, and whether indirect up-regulation of HMOX1 by let-7 miRNA attenuates oxidant injury in human hepatocytes. The effects of let-7 miRNA on Bach1 and HMOX1 gene expression in Huh-7 and HepG2 cells were determined by real-time qRT-PCR, Western blot, and luciferase reporter assays. Dual luciferase reporter assays revealed that let-7b, let-7c, or miR-98 significantly decreased Bach1 3'-untranslated region (3'-UTR)-dependent luciferase activity but not mutant Bach1 3'-UTR-dependent luciferase activity, whereas mutant let-7 miRNA containing base complementarity with mutant Bach1 3'-UTR restored its effect on mutant reporter activity. let-7b, let-7c, or miR-98 down-regulated Bach1 protein levels by 50-70%, and subsequently up-regulated HMOX1 gene expression by 3-4 fold, compared with non-specific controls. Furthermore, Huh-7 cells transfected with let-7b, let-7c or miR-98 mimic showed increased resistance against oxidant injury induced by tert-butyl-hydroperoxide (tBuOOH), whereas the protection was abrogated by over-expression of Bach1. In conclusion, let-7 miRNA directly acts on the 3'-UTR of Bach1 and negatively regulates expression of this protein, and thereby up-regulates HMOX1 gene expression. Over-expression of the let-7 miRNA family members may represent a novel approach to protecting human hepatocytes from oxidant injury.

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