Hypercholesterolaemia is one of the major causes of CVD (cardiovascular disease). It is associated with enhanced oxidative stress, leading to increased lipid peroxidation which in turn determines endothelial dysfunction and susceptibility to coronary vasoconstriction and atherosclerosis. Different miRNAs are involved in the pathogenesis of CVD and play an important role in inflammatory process control, therefore, together with atherogenic factors, they can stimulate atherosclerotic degeneration of the vessel walls of arteries. miR-33a and miR-33b play a pivotal role in a variety of biological processes including cholesterol homoeostasis, HDL (high-density lipoprotein)-cholesterol formation, fatty acid oxidation and insulin signalling. Our study aimed to determine whether circulating miR-33a and miR-33b expression was altered in familial hypercholesterolaemic children. Total RNA was extracted from plasma, and miR-33a and miR-33b were measured by quantitative real-time PCR. We found that miR-33a and miR-33b were significantly up-regulated in the plasma of 28 hypercholesterolaemic children compared with 25 healthy subjects (4.49±0.27-fold increase, P<0.001, and 3.21±0.39-fold increase, P<0.05 respectively), and for both miRNAs, a positive correlation with total cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein)-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol/HDL-cholesterol ratio, apolipoprotein B, CRP (C-reactive protein) and glycaemia was found. OLS (ordinary least squares) regression analysis revealed that miR-33a was significantly affected by the presence of FH (familial hypercholesterolaemia), glycaemia and CRP (P<0.001, P<0.05 and P<0.05 respectively). The same analysis showed that miR-33b was significantly related to FH and CRP (P<0.05 and P<0.05 respectively). Although it is only explorative, the present study could be the first to point to the use of miR-33a and miR-33b as early biomarkers for cholesterol levels in childhood, once validated in independent larger cohorts.

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