Functional MicroRNA Library Screening Identifies the HypoxaMiR MiR-24 as a Potent Regulator of Smooth Muscle Cell Proliferation and Vascularization

  • Abstract Smooth muscle cells (SMCs) are key components within the vasculature. Dependent on the stimulus, SMC can either be in a proliferative (synthetic) or differentiated state. Alterations of SMC phenotype also appear in several disease settings, further contributing to disease progression. Aims: Here, we asked whether microRNAs (miRNAs, miRs), which are strong posttranscriptional regulators of gene expression, could alter SMC proliferation. Results and Innovation: Employing a robotic-assisted high-throughput screening method using miRNA libraries, we identified hypoxia-regulated miR-24 as a master regulator of SMC proliferation. Proteome profiling showed a strong miR-24-dependent impact on cellular stress-associated factors, overall resulting in reduced stress resistance. In vitro, synthetic miR-24 overexpression had detrimental effects on SMC functional capacity inducing apoptosis, migration defects, enhanced autophagy, and loss of contractile marker genes. Impaired SMC function was mediated in part by the herein identified direct target gene heme oxygenase 1. Ex vivo, miR-24 was shown to inhibit the development of vasculature in a model of engineered heart tissue. Conclusion: Collectively, we report the identification of the hypoxamir-24 as an inhibitor of SMC proliferation, contributing to loss of vascularization. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 00, 000-000.

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