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Atherosclerotic Plaques Reveal Differentially Expressed MicroRNAs

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Researchers in Germany have linked the expression of several microRNAs to the formation of atherosclerotic plaques and cardiovascular disease, suggesting that they may serve as therapeutic targets.

In a study published today in Scientific Reports, the team, led by corresponding author Mariana Parahuleva of the University Hospital of Giessen and Marburg, presented results from their analysis, for which they profiled the expression of more than 350 miRNAs in human advanced coronary atherosclerotic plaques.

The case-control study involved an analysis of diseased coronary artery samples from 12 patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) who participated in the ACS Multi-Link study, as well as 14 unaffected internal mammary arteries, serving as controls, that were obtained during bypass surgery.

Using a microarray, the researchers profiled the expression of 352 miRNAs, and based on the results, they focused in on those miRNAs that were robustly expressed and differed between ACS patients and healthy controls.

Following further analyses, they selected 11 microRNAs that appeared to be of interest for vascular and plaque inflammation. They further investigated them using TaqMan real-time qPCR, finding that three of them were upregulated, and three were downregulated in coronary artery plaques.

Specifically, miRNA-21, -92a, and -99a were found to be significantly upregulated in CAP. Additional bioinformatic analysis uncovered several potential target genes for -92a and -99a, and found that they might affect multiple cellular pathways with a link to atherosclerosis.   

"Interfering with [microRNA] expression in the artery is a potential means to affect the plaque development in many ways, using just a single molecule as the target," the authors wrote.

MiRNA-21 and -92a, in particular, "may be a new therapeutic target for proliferative vascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, postangioplasty restenosis, and transplantation vasculopathy," they concluded.