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MicroRNA-302a promotes neointimal formation following carotid artery injury in mice by targeting PHLPP2 thus increasing Akt signaling


The excessive proliferation and migration of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) play an important role in restenosis following percutaneous coronary interventions. MicroRNAs are able to target various genes and involved in the regulation of diverse cellular processes including cell growth and proliferation. In this study we investigated whether and how MicroRNAs regulated vascular SMC proliferation and vascular remodeling following carotid artery injury in mice. We showed that carotid artery injury-induced neointimal formation was remarkably ameliorated in microRNA (miR)-302 heterozygous mice and SMC-specific miR-302 knockout mice. In contrast, delivery of miR-302a adenovirus to the injured carotid artery enhanced neointimal formation. Upregulation of miR-302a enhanced the proliferation and migration of mouse aorta SMC (MASMC) in vitro by promoting cell cycle transition, whereas miR-302a inhibition caused the opposite results. Moreover, miR-302a promoted Akt activation by corporately decreasing Akt expression and increasing Akt phosphorylation in MASMCs. Application of the Akt inhibitor GSK690693 (5 μmol/L) counteracted the functions of miR-302a in promoting MASMC proliferation and migration. We further revealed that miR-302a directly targeted at the 3′ untranslated region of PH domain and leucine rich repeat protein phosphatase 2 (PHLPP2) and negatively regulated PHLPP2 expression. Restoration of PHLPP2 abrogated the effects of miR-302a on Akt activation and MASMC motility. Furthermore, knockdown of PHLPP2 largely abolished the inhibition of neointimal formation that was observed in miR-302 heterozygous mice. Our data demonstrate that miR-302a exacerbates SMC proliferation and restenosis through increasing Akt signaling by targeting PHLPP2.

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Fig. 1: Lack of miR-302 inhibits neointimal formation induced by carotid artery injury.
Fig. 2: MiR-302a potentiates PDGF-BB-induced MASMC proliferation and migration.
Fig. 3: MiR-302a regulates MASMC proliferation dependent on Akt signaling.
Fig. 4: MiR-302a targets PHLPP2 and negatively regulates its expression.
Fig. 5: Restoration of PHLPP2 or PTEN expression attenuates the effects of miR-302a on Akt activation, MASMC proliferation, and migration.
Fig. 6: MiR-302 knockdown ameliorates neointimal formation in a PHLPP2-dependent manner.


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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81525025, 81930106, 91739104, 81773723 and 81603098), National Key R&D Program of China (2017YFC0909302), Science and Technology Program of Guangzhou (201707010023), Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (17ykjc29 and 17ykpy05), and High-level Health Teams of Zhuhai (2018).

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JGZ and SJL designed the research; YYL performedthe research; YYL and XL analyzed the data; SJL wrote the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Si-jia Liang.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Liu, Yy., Liu, X., Zhou, Jg. et al. MicroRNA-302a promotes neointimal formation following carotid artery injury in mice by targeting PHLPP2 thus increasing Akt signaling. Acta Pharmacol Sin 42, 550–559 (2021).

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  • microRNA-302a
  • neointimal formation
  • vascular smooth muscle cell
  • proliferation
  • Akt
  • PHLPP2

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