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Atherosclerosis. 2011 Dec;219(2):468-74. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2011.09.004. Epub 2011 Sep 9.

The role of microRNA-145 in human embryonic stem cell differentiation into vascular cells.

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  • 1Division of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine, Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.



Recent studies have reported that microRNA-145 (miR-145) is a critical mediator in the regulation of proliferation, differentiation, and phenotype expression of smooth muscle cells (SMCs). Previously, we established a system for differentiating human ESCs into vascular cells including endothelial cells (ECs) and vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs). In the present study, we investigated the role of miR-145 in the differentiation process from human ESCs into ECs and SMCs.


Undifferentiated human ESCs were induced to differentiate into vascular lineage according to our established method. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis revealed that human ESC-derived precursor of SMCs (ES-pre-SMCs), similar to human aortic SMCs, expressed a significant amount of miR-145 as well as smooth muscle-specific proteins, compared to undifferentiated human ESCs, adult ECs, or ESC-derived ECs (ES-ECs). However, morphological analysis revealed that human ES-pre-SMCs appeared round and flattened in shape, though human aortic SMCs exhibited the typical spindle-like morphology of SMCs. In addition, Krüppel-like factor 4 and 5 (KLF4 and 5), direct targets of miR-145 and suppressors of smooth muscle differentiation, were upregulated in ES-pre-SMCs compared to aortic SMCs, indicating ES-pre-SMCs were not fully differentiated SMCs. Overexpression of miR-145 in ES-pre-SMCs upregulated the expression of smooth muscle markers, repressed KLF4 and 5 expressions, and changed their morphology into a differentiated spindle-like shape. Furthermore, by introduction of miR-145, ES-pre-SMC proliferation was significantly inhibited and carbachol-stimulated contraction of ES-pre-SMCs was significantly increased. In contrast, downregulation of miR-145 in ES-pre-SMCs upregulated KLF4 and 5 expressions, suppressed the expression of smooth muscle markers, and left unchanged their proliferation and contractility. In ES-ECs, miR-145 overexpression did not induce the synthesis of smooth muscle-related proteins nor suppress the expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase.


We showed that miR-145 can regulate the fate and phenotype of human ES-pre-SMCs as they become fully differentiated SMCs. Overexpression of miR-145 on human ES-pre-SMCs is a promising method to obtain functional mature SMCs from human ESCs, which are required for reliable experimental research in the fields of atherosclerosis, hypertension and other vascular diseases.

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