A dual-luciferase activity assay confirmed that transforming growth factor-beta receptors (TGFBRs) 1 and 2 were both the target genes of miR-130a-3p. The hepatic expression of TGFBR1 and TGFBR2 was significantly increased. Moreover, the overexpression of miR-130a-3p in HSCs inhibited HSC activation and proliferation, concomitant with the decreased expression of TGFBR1, TGFBR2, Smad2, Smad3, matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2), MMP-9, type I collagen (Col-1), and Col-4. In addition, the overexpression of miR-130a-3p was shown to promote HSC apoptosis by inducing the expression of caspase-dependent apoptosis genes. Transfection with si-TGFBR1 and si-TGFBR2 revealed effects on HSC function that were consistent with those of miR-130a-3p. TGFBR1 and TGFBR2 rescued the miR-130a-3p-mediated reductions in the mRNA and protein expression levels of Smad2, Smad3, Col-1, and Col-4.
In conclusion, these findings suggest that miR-130a-3p might play a critical role in negatively regulating HSC activation and proliferation in the progression of nonalcoholic fibrosing steatohepatitis by directly targeting TGFBR1 and TGFBR2 via the TGF-β/SMAD signaling pathway.