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Curr Opin Hematol. 2011 May;18(3):171-6. doi: 10.1097/MOH.0b013e328345a180.

MicroRNA-mediated regulation of the angiogenic switch.

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  • 1Moores UCSD Cancer Center and Department of Pathology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA.



It has been known for decades that in order to grow, tumors need to activate quiescent endothelial cells to form a functional vascular network, a process termed 'angiogenesis'. However, the molecular determinants that reverse this endothelial quiescence to facilitate pathological angiogenesis are not yet completely understood. This review examines a critical regulatory switch at the level of Ras that activates this angiogenic switch process and the role that microRNAs play in this process.


In the last few years, microRNAs, a new class of small RNA molecules, have emerged as key regulators of several cellular processes, including angiogenesis. MicroRNAs such as miR-126, miR-296, and miR-92a have been shown to play important roles in angiogenesis. We recently described how miR-132, an angiogenic growth factor inducible microRNA in the endothelium, facilitates pathological angiogenesis by downregulating p120RasGAP, a molecular brake for Ras. Importantly, targeting miR-132 with a complementary, synthetic antimicroRNA restored the brake and decreased angiogenesis and tumor burden in multiple tumor models. Taken together, emerging evidence suggests a central role for microRNAs downstream of multiple growth factors in regulating endothelial proliferation, migration, and vascular patterning.


Further research into miR-132-p120RasGAP biology and more broadly, microRNA regulation of Ras pathways in the endothelium will not only advance our understanding of angiogenesis but also provide opportunities for therapeutic intervention.

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