UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications


Extracellular RNAs Are Associated With Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Phenotypes

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine; Department of Quantitative Health Sciences; UMass Metabolic Network

Publication Date


Document Type



Cellular and Molecular Physiology | Endocrinology | Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism | Nutritional and Metabolic Diseases


OBJECTIVE: Insulin resistance (IR) is a hallmark of obesity and metabolic disease. Circulating extracellular RNAs (ex-RNAs), stable RNA molecules in plasma, may play a role in IR, though most studies on ex-RNAs in IR are small. We sought to characterize the relationship between ex-RNAs and metabolic phenotypes in a large community-based human cohort.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We measured circulating plasma ex-RNAs in 2,317 participants without diabetes in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) Offspring Cohort at cycle 8 and defined associations between ex-RNAs and IR (measured by circulating insulin level). We measured association between candidate ex-RNAs and markers of adiposity. Sensitivity analyses included individuals with diabetes. In a separate cohort of 90 overweight/obese youth, we measured selected ex-RNAs and metabolites. Biology of candidate microRNAs was investigated in silico.

RESULTS: The mean age of FHS participants was 65.8 years (56% female), with average BMI 27.7 kg/m2; participants in the youth cohort had a mean age of 15.5 years (60% female), with mean BMI 33.8 kg/m2. In age-, sex-, and BMI-adjusted models across 391 ex-RNAs in FHS, 18 ex-RNAs were associated with IR (of which 16 were microRNAs). miR-122 was associated with IR and regional adiposity in adults and IR in children (independent of metabolites). Pathway analysis revealed metabolic regulatory roles for miR-122, including regulation of IR pathways (AMPK, target of rapamycin signaling, and mitogen-activated protein kinase).

CONCLUSIONS: These results provide translational evidence in support of an important role of ex-RNAs as novel circulating factors implicated in IR.


UMCCTS funding

DOI of Published Version



Diabetes Care. 2017 Apr;40(4):546-553. doi: 10.2337/dc16-1354. Epub 2017 Feb 9. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Diabetes care

PubMed ID