UMMS Affiliation

Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Medicine, UMass Metabolic Network

Publication Date


Document Type



Cardiology | Cardiovascular Diseases | Genomics | Translational Medical Research


BACKGROUND: Cardiometabolic (CM) risk factors are heritable and cluster in individuals. We hypothesized that CM risk factors are associated with multiple shared and unique mRNA and microRNA (miRNA) signatures. We examined associations of mRNA and miRNA levels with 6 CM traits: body mass index, HDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, fasting glucose, and systolic and diastolic blood pressures through cross-sectional analysis of 2812 Framingham Heart Study who had whole blood collection for RNA isolation for mRNA and miRNA expression studies and who consented to genetic research. We excluded participants taking medication for hypertension, dyslipidemia, or diabetes. We measured mRNA (n = 17,318; using the Affymetrix GeneChip Human Exon 1.0 ST Array) and miRNA (n = 315; using qRT-PCR) expression in whole blood. We used linear regression for mRNA analyses and a combination of linear and logistic regression for miRNA analyses. We conducted miRNA-mRNA coexpression and gene ontology enrichment analyses to explore relations between pleiotropic miRNAs, mRNA expression, and CM trait clustering.

RESULTS: We identified hundreds of significant associations between mRNAs, miRNAs, and individual CM traits. Four mRNAs (FAM13A, CSF2RB, HIST1H2AC, WNK1) were associated with all 6 CM traits (FDR < 0.001) and four miRNAs (miR-197-3p, miR-328, miR-505-5p, miR-145-5p) were associated with four CM traits (FDR < 0.05). Twelve mRNAs, including WNK1, that were coexpressed with the four most pleiotropic miRNAs, were also miRNA targets. mRNAs coexpressed with pleiotropic miRNAs were enriched for RNA metabolism (miR-505-5p), ubiquitin-dependent protein catabolism (miR-197-3p, miR-328) and chromatin assembly (miR-328).

CONCLUSIONS: We identified mRNA and miRNA signatures of individual CM traits and their clustering. Implicated transcripts may play causal roles in CM risk or be downstream consequences of CM risk factors on the transcriptome. Studies are needed to establish whether or not pleiotropic circulating transcripts illuminate causal pathways for CM risk.


UMCCTS funding, Cardiovascular disease risk factors, Epidemiology, Circulation, mRNA, microRNA

DOI of Published Version



BMC Genomics. 2017 Feb 8;18(1):139. doi: 10.1186/s12864-017-3533-9. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

BMC genomics

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PubMed ID


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.