MicroRNAs (miRs) regulate complex processes, including angiogenesis, by targeting multiple mRNAs. miR-24-3p-3p directly represses eNOS, GATA2, and PAK4 in endothelial cells (ECs), thus inhibiting angiogenesis during development and in the infarcted heart. miR-24-3p is widely expressed in cardiovascular cells, suggesting that it could additionally regulate angiogenesis by acting on vascular mural cells. Here, we have investigated: (1) new miR-24-3p targets; (2) the expression and the function of miR-24-3p in human vascular ECs; (3) the impact of miR-24-3p inhibition in the angiogenesis reparative response to limb ischemia in mice. Using bioinformatics target prediction platforms and 3′-UTR luciferase assays, we newly identified Notch1 and its Delta-like ligand 1 (Dll1) to be directly targeted by miR-24-3p. miR-24-3p was expressed in human ECs and pericytes cultured under normal conditions. Exposure to hypoxia increased miR-24-3p in ECs but not in pericytes. Transfection with a miR-24-3p precursor (pre-miR-24-3p) increased miR-24-3p expression in ECs, reducing the cell survival, proliferation, and angiogenic capacity. Opposite effects were caused by miR-24-3p inhibition. The anti-angiogenic action of miR-24-3p overexpression could be prevented by simultaneous adenovirus (Ad
)-mediated delivery of constitutively active Notch intracellular domain (NICD) into cultured ECs. We next demonstrated that reduced Notch signalling contributes to the anti-angiogenic effect of miR-24-3p in vitro. In a mouse unilateral limb ischemia model, local miR-24-3p inhibition (by adenovirus-mediated miR-24-3p decoy delivery) restored endothelial Notch signalling and increased capillary density. However, the new vessels appeared disorganised and twisted, worsening post-ischemic blood perfusion recovery. To better understand the underpinning mechanisms, we widened the search for miR-24-3p target genes, identifying several contributors to vascular morphogenesis, such as several members of the Wingless (Wnt) signalling pathway, β-catenin signalling components, and VE-cadherin, which synergise to regulate angiogenesis, pericytes recruitment to neoformed capillaries, maturation, and stabilization of newly formed vessels. Among those, we next focussed on β-catenin to demonstrate that miR-24-3p inhibition reduces β-catenin expression in hypoxic ECs, which is accompanied by reduced adhesion of pericytes to ECs. In summary, miR-24-3p differentially targets several angiogenesis modulators and contributes to autonomous and non-autonomous EC crosstalk. In ischemic limbs, miR-24-3p inhibition increases the production of dysfunctional microvessels, impairing perfusion. Caution should be observed in therapeutic targeting of miR-24-3p.
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