Functional impact of microRNA-34a on stem cell differentiation towards smooth muscle cell
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MicroRNAs play an important role in biological regulation. Recently miR-34a has been reported to regulate tumour cell cycle progression and apoptosis. However, the functional role of miR-34a in smooth muscle cell (SMC) differentiation from stem cells is yet unclear. Main objectives of this PhD project are to determine the functional role of miR-34a and its target genes in SMC differentiation and underlying mechanisms. Mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells were seeded on collagen coated flasks in differentiation medium to allow SMC differentiation. Upon analysis, miR-34a was significantly up-regulated during SMC differentiation. Results demonstrated that overexpression of miR-34a significantly promoted SMC-specific gene expression, while knockdown of miR-34a inhibited expression of SMC specific gene. Enforced expression and knockdown of miR-34a in differentiating ES cells up-regulated and down-regulated, respectively, several SMC transcription factors in a similar manner. It was also found that miR-34a overexpression in stem cells promoted SMC differentiation in vivo. Furthermore, deacetylase sirtuin 1 (Sirt1) was identified as one of the top targets of miR-34a. Surprisingly, Sirt1 was demonstrated to be positively regulated by miR-34a during SMC differentiation in a cellular context and RNA sequence dependent manner. VIII Mechanistically, the data suggested that miR-34a promoted differentiating stem cells arrest at G0/G1 phase, and a significant decreased incorporation of miR-34a and SirT1 RNA into Ago2-RISC complex was observed upon SMC differentiation. The results demonstrated that Sirt1 acted as a transcriptional activator in the regulation of SMC gene during ES cell differentiation. Finally, H3K9 tri-methylation around the promoter regions of the SMαA and SM22α genes was also found to be significantly inhibited by SirT1 overexpression. These findings suggest that miR-34a plays an important role in SMC differentiation from ES cells. Meanwhile, Sirt1 can be regulated by miR-34a through an unexpected pathway and it was identified as a functional modulating target in miR-34a mediated SMC differentiation.
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