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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2012 Mar 15;302(6):L521-9. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00316.2011. Epub 2012 Jan 6.

miR-21 regulates chronic hypoxia-induced pulmonary vascular remodeling.

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Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Alabama, Birmingham, USA.


Chronic hypoxia causes pulmonary vascular remodeling leading to pulmonary hypertension (PH) and right ventricle (RV) hypertrophy. Aberrant expression of microRNA (miRNA) is closely associated with a number of pathophysiologic processes. However, the role of miRNAs in chronic hypoxia-induced pulmonary vascular remodeling and PH has not been well characterized. In this study, we found increased expression of miR-21 in distal small arteries in the lungs of hypoxia-exposed mice. Putative miR-21 targets, including bone morphogenetic protein receptor (BMPR2), WWP1, SATB1, and YOD1, were downregulated in the lungs of hypoxia-exposed mice and in human pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMCs) overexpressing miR-21. We found that sequestration of miR-21, either before or after hypoxia exposure, diminished chronic hypoxia-induced PH and attenuated hypoxia-induced pulmonary vascular remodeling, likely through relieving the suppressed expression of miR-21 targets in the lungs of hypoxia-exposed mice. Overexpression of miR-21 enhanced, whereas downregulation of miR-21 diminished, the proliferation of human PASMCs in vitro and the expression of cell proliferation associated proteins, such as proliferating cell nuclear antigen, cyclin D1, and Bcl-xL. Our data suggest that miR-21 plays an important role in the pathogenesis of chronic hypoxia-induced pulmonary vascular remodeling and also suggest that miR-21 is a potential target for novel therapeutics to treat chronic hypoxia associated pulmonary diseases.

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