Exercise increases MEF2A abundance in rat cardiac muscle by downregulating microRNA-223-5p

Exercise plays an important role in cardiac health and enhances the transport of glucose in cardiac muscle by increasing the glucose transporter-4 (GLUT4) content at the cell membrane. The GLUT4 gene is a target of myocyte enhancer transcription factor 2A (MEF2A). Several transcription factors are regulated by microRNAs (miRs), small non-coding RNAs that control gene expression at the posttranscriptional level. In this study we tested the hypothesis that exercise regulates the expression of miR-223 and that MEF2A is a direct target of miR-223. Quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and western blot experiments showed that GLUT4 gene expression and protein abundance increased by 30 and 23%, respectively, in the microsomal fraction immediately after exercise, and had returned to control levels after 18 h. In contrast, the increase in GLUT4 in the membrane fraction was delayed. Exercise also increased the protein abundance of transcription factors involved in GLUT4 expression. Immediately after exercise, the protein abundance of MEF2A, nuclear respiratory factor 1 (NRF1), and forkhead box O1 (FOXO1) increased by 18, 30, and 40%, respectively. qRT-PCR experiments showed that miR-223-3p and miR-223-5p expression decreased immediately after exercise by 60 and 30%, respectively, and luciferase assays indicated that MEF2A is a target of the 5p strand of miR-223. Overexpression of miR-223-5p in H9c2 cells decreased the protein abundance of MEF2A. Our results suggest that the exercise-induced increase in GLUT4 content in cardiac muscle is partly due to the posttranscriptional increase in MEF2A protein abundance caused by the decrease in miR-223-5p expression. The exercise-induced decrease in miR-223-3p expression likely contributes to the increases in NRF1 and FOXO1 abundance and GLUT4 content.