Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common cause of chronic liver disease. Glycine N-methyltransferase (GNMT) is the most important and abundant S-adenosylmethionine-dependent methyltransferase in the liver. Fernández-Tussy, Fernández-Ramos, and colleagues describe a new essential role of GNMT in the mitochondria and demonstrate that the recovery of hepatic GNMT levels by targeting the microRNA miR-873-5p emerges as a new therapeutic approach for NAFLD.
miR-873-5p targets mitochondrial GNMT-Complex II interface contributing to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Objective: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a complex pathology in which several dysfunctions, including alterations in metabolic pathways, mitochondrial functionality and unbalanced lipid import/export, lead to lipid accumulation and progression to inflammation and fibrosis. The enzyme glycine N-methyltransferase (GNMT), the most important enzyme implicated in S-adenosylmethionine catabolism in the liver, is downregulated during NAFLD progression. We have studied the mechanism involved in GNMT downregulation by its repressor microRNA miR-873-5p and the metabolic pathways affected in NAFLD as well as the benefit of recovery GNMT expression.
Methods: miR-873-5p and GNMT expression were evaluated in liver biopsies of NAFLD/NASH patients. Different in vitro and in vivo NAFLD murine models were used to assess miR-873-5p/GNMT involvement in fatty liver progression through targeting of the miR-873-5p as NAFLD therapy.
Results: We describe a new function of GNMT as an essential regulator of Complex II activity in the electron transport chain in the mitochondria. In NAFLD, GNMT expression is controlled by miR-873-5p in the hepatocytes, leading to disruptions in mitochondrial functionality in a preclinical murine non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) model. Upregulation of miR-873-5p is shown in the liver of NAFLD/NASH patients, correlating with hepatic GNMT depletion. Importantly, NASH therapies based on anti-miR-873-5p resolve lipid accumulation, inflammation and fibrosis by enhancing fatty acid β-oxidation in the mitochondria. Therefore, miR-873-5p inhibitor emerges as a potential tool for NASH treatment.
Conclusion: GNMT participates in the regulation of metabolic pathways and mitochondrial functionality through the regulation of Complex II activity in the electron transport chain. In NAFLD, GNMT is repressed by miR-873-5p and its targeting arises as a valuable therapeutic option for treatment.