Circulating microRNA-197-3p as a potential biomarker for asbestos exposure

Scientific Reports 2021 December 14 [Link]

Francesca Frontini, Ilaria Bononi, Elena Torreggiani, Giulia Di Mauro, Elisa Mazzoni, Mariarita Stendardo, Piera Boschetto, Roberta Libener, Roberto Guaschino, Federica Grosso, Giovanni Guerra, Fernanda Martini, Mauro Tognon


Asbestos is considered the main cause of diseases in workers exposed to this mineral in the workplace as well as an environmental pollutant. The association between asbestos and the onset of different diseases has been reported, but asbestos exposure specific biomarkers are not known. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, single-strand, non-coding RNAs, with potential value as diagnostic, prognostic, and predictive markers in liquid biopsies. Sera collected from workers ex-exposed to asbestos (WEA) fibers were compared with sera from healthy subjects (HS) of similar age, as liquid biopsies. The expression of the circulating miRNA 197-3p was investigated employing two different highly analytical PCR methods, i.e. RT-qPCR and ddPCR. MiR-197-3p levels were tested in sera from WEA compared to HS. MiR-197-3p tested dysregulated in sera from WEA (n = 75) compared to HS (n = 62). Indeed, miR-197-3p was found to be 2.6 times down-regulated in WEA vs. HS (p = 0.0001**). In addition, an inverse correlation was detected between miR-197-3p expression level and cumulative asbestos exposure, being this miRNA down-regulated 2.1 times in WEA, with high cumulative asbestos exposure, compared to WEA with low exposure (p = 0.0303). Circulating miR-197-3p, found to be down regulated in sera from WEA, is proposed as a new potential biomarker of asbestos exposure.