Hindered by a limited understanding of the mechanisms responsible for diabetic gastroenteropathy (DGE), management is symptomatic. We investigated the duodenal mucosal expression of protein-coding genes and microRNAs (miRNA) in DGE and related them to clinical features. The diabetic phenotype, gastric emptying, mRNA, and miRNA expression and ultrastructure of duodenal mucosal biopsies were compared in 39 DGE patients and 21 controls. Among 3175 differentially expressed genes (FDR < 0.05), several mitochondrial DNA–encoded (mtDNA-encoded) genes (12 of 13 protein coding genes involved in oxidative phosphorylation [OXPHOS], both rRNAs and 9 of 22 transfer RNAs) were downregulated; conversely, nuclear DNA–encoded (nDNA-encoded) mitochondrial genes (OXPHOS) were upregulated in DGE. The promoters of differentially expressed genes were enriched in motifs for transcription factors (e.g., NRF1), which regulate mitochondrial biogenesis. Seventeen of 30 differentially expressed miRNAs targeted differentially expressed mitochondrial genes. Mitochondrial density was reduced and correlated with expression of 9 mtDNA OXPHOS genes. Uncovered by principal component (PC) analysis of 70 OXPHOS genes, PC1 was associated with neuropathy (P = 0.01) and delayed gastric emptying (P < 0.05). In DGE, mtDNA- and nDNA-encoded mitochondrial genes are reduced and increased — associated with reduced mitochondrial density, neuropathy, and delayed gastric emptying — and correlated with cognate miRNAs. These findings suggest that mitochondrial disturbances may contribute to delayed gastric emptying in DGE.
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