Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) is a chronic cholestatic liver disease associated with autoimmune phenomena targeting intrahepatic bile duct cells (cholangiocytes). Although its etiopathogenesis remains obscure, development of antimitochondrial autoantibodies against pyruvate dehydrogenase complex E2 is a common feature. MicroRNA (miR) dysregulation occurs in liver and immune cells of PBC patients, but its functional relevance is largely unknown. We previously reported that miR-506 is overexpressed in PBC cholangiocytes and directly targets both Cl–/ HCO3 - anion exchanger 2 and type III inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor, leading to cholestasis. Here, the regulation of miR-506 gene expression and its role in cholangiocyte pathophysiology and immune activation was studied. Several proinflammatory cytokines overexpressed in PBC livers (such as interleukin-8 [IL8], IL12, IL17, IL18, and tumor necrosis factor alpha) stimulated miR-506 promoter activity in human cholangiocytes, as revealed by luciferase reporter assays. Experimental overexpression of miR-506 in cholangiocytes dysregulated the cell proteomic profile (by mass spectrometry), affecting proteins involved in different biological processes including mitochondrial metabolism. In cholangiocytes, miR-506 (1) induced dedifferentiation with down-regulation of biliary and epithelial markers together with up-regulation of mesenchymal, proinflammatory, and profibrotic markers; (2) impaired cell proliferation and adhesion; (3) increased oxidative and endoplasmic reticulum stress; (4) caused DNA damage; and (5) sensitized to caspase-3-dependent apoptosis induced by cytotoxic bile acids. These events were also associated with impaired energy metabolism in mitochondria (proton leak and less adenosine triphosphate production) and pyruvate dehydrogenase complex E2 overexpression. Coculture of miR-506 overexpressing cholangiocytes with PBC immunocytes induced activation and proliferation of PBC immunocytes. Conclusion: Different proinflammatory cytokines enhance the expression of miR-506 in biliary epithelial cells; miR-506 induces PBC-like features in cholangiocytes and promotes immune activation, representing a potential therapeutic target for PBC patients. (Hepatology 2018;67:1420-1440).
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