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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2011 Dec;31(12):2909-19. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.111.233585. Epub 2011 Sep 22.

Serum response factor regulates expression of phosphatase and tensin homolog through a microRNA network in vascular smooth muscle cells.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.



Serum response factor (SRF) is a critical transcription factor in smooth muscle cells (SMCs) controlling differentiation and proliferation. Our previous work demonstrated that depleting SRF in cultured SMCs decreased expression of SMC markers but increased proliferation and inflammatory mediators. A similar phenotype has been observed in SMCs silenced for phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN), suggesting that SRF and PTEN may lie on a common pathway. Our goal was to determine the effect of SRF depletion on PTEN levels and define mechanisms mediating this effect.


In SRF-silenced SMCs, PTEN protein levels but not mRNA levels were decreased, suggesting posttranscriptional regulation. Reintroduction of PTEN into SRF-depleted SMCs reversed increases in proliferation and cytokine/chemokine production but had no effect on SMC marker expression. SRF-depleted cells showed decreased levels of microRNA (miR)-143 and increased miR-21, which was sufficient to suppress PTEN. Increased miR-21 expression was dependent on induction of Fos related antigen (FRA)-1, which is a direct target of miR-143. Introducing miR-143 into SRF-depleted SMCs reduced FRA-1 expression and miR-21 levels and restored PTEN expression.


SRF regulates PTEN expression in SMCs through a miR network involving miR-143, targeting FRA-1, which regulates miR-21. Cross-talk between SRF and PTEN likely represents a critical axis in phenotypic remodeling of SMCs.

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