Hypercholesterolaemia provokes reactive oxygen species (ROS) increase and is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) development. We previously showed that circulating miR-33a/b expression levels were up-regulated in children with familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH). miR-33a/b control cholesterol homoeostasis and recently miR-33b has been demonstrated to directly target the transcription factor zinc finger E-box-binding homeobox 1 (ZEB1). The latter acts in a negative feedback loop with the miR-200 family. Our previous studies showed that the ROS-dependent miR-200c up-regulation induces endothelial dysfunction and provokes a ZEB1-dependent apoptosis and senescence. In the present study, we aimed to verify whether circulating miR-200c was induced in FH children, and whether a correlation existed with miR-33a/b. Total RNA was extracted from plasma of 28 FH children and 25 age-matched healthy subjects (HS) and miR-200c levels were measured. We found that miR-200c was up-regulated in FH compared with HS (4.00 ± 0.48-fold increase, P<0.05) and exhibited a positive correlation with miR-33a/b. miR-200c did not correlate with plasma lipids, but correlated with C-reactive protein (CRP) plasma levels and glycaemia (GLI). Ordinary least squares (OLS) regression analysis revealed that miR-200c was significantly affected by GLI and by miR-33a (P<0.01; P<0.001 respectively). Moreover, we found that miR-33 overexpression, in different cell lines, decreased ZEB1 expression and up-regulated both the intracellular and the extracellular miR-200c expression levels. In conclusion, circulating miR-200c is up-regulated in FH, probably due to oxidative stress and inflammation and via a miR-33a/b-ZEB1-dependent mechanism. The present study could provide the first evidence to point to the use of miR-33a/b and miR-200c, as early biomarkers of CVD, in paediatric FH.

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