LincRNA-p21 Regulates Neointima Formation, Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Proliferation, Apoptosis and Atherosclerosis by Enhancing p53 Activity
Background—Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) recently have been implicated in many biological processes and diseases. Atherosclerosis is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. However, the functional role of lncRNAs in atherosclerosis is largely unknown.
Methods and Results—We identified lincRNA-p21 as a key regulator of cell proliferation and apoptosis during atherosclerosis. The expression of lincRNA-p21 was dramatically down-regulated in atherosclerotic plaques of ApoE-/- mice, an animal model for atherosclerosis. Through loss- and gain-of function approaches, we showed that lincRNA-p21 represses cell proliferation and induces apoptosis in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) and mouse mononuclear macrophage cells in vitro. Moreover, we found that inhibition of lincRNA-p21 results in neointimal hyperplasia in vivo in a carotid artery injury model. Genome-wide analysis revealed that lincRNA-p21 inhibition dysregulated many p53 targets. Furthermore, lincRNA-p21, a transcriptional target of p53, feeds back to enhance p53 transcriptional activity, at least in part, via binding to mouse double minute 2 (MDM2), an E3 ubiquitin-protein ligase. The association of lincRNA-p21 and MDM2 releases MDM2 repression of p53, enabling p53 to interact with p300 and bind to the promoters/enhancers of its target genes. Finally, we show that lincRNA-p21 expression is decreased in coronary artery disease patients.
Conclusions—Our studies identify lincRNA-p21 as a novel regulator of cell proliferation and apoptosis and suggest that this lncRNA could serve as a therapeutic target to treat atherosclerosis and related cardiovascular disorders.
- Received June 11, 2014.
- Revision received July 31, 2014.
- Accepted August 18, 2014.