Thursday, June 17, 2010
With the well-established link between serum cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease and the availability of effective cholesterol-lowering drugs, cholesterol screening has rapidly become a routine part of health care. Yet, much remains to be learned about how cholesterol levels are regulated at the cellular level (see the Perspective by Brown et al.). Now, Najafi-Shoushtari et al. (p. 1566, published online 13 May) and Rayner et al. (p. 1570, published online 13 May) have discovered a new molecular player in cholesterol control—a small noncoding RNA that, intriguingly, is embedded within the genes coding for sterol regulatory element-binding proteins (SREBPs), transcription factors already known to regulate cholesterol levels. This microRNA, called miR-33, represses expression of the adenosine triphosphate–binding cassette transporter A1, a protein that regulates synthesis of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good" cholesterol) and that helps to remove "bad" cholesterol from the blood. Reducing the levels of miR-33 in mice boosted serum HDL levels, suggesting that manipulation of this regulatory circuit might be therapeutically useful.