Let-7a-transfected mesenchymal stem cells ameliorate monocrotaline-induced pulmonary hypertension by suppressing pulmonary artery smooth muscle cell growth through STAT3-BMPR2 signaling

Gesheng Cheng, Xingye Wang, Yongxin Li, Lu He
Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2017 February 10, 8 (1): 34

BACKGROUND: Cell-based gene therapy has become a subject of interest for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a devastating disease characterized by pulmonary artery smooth muscle cell (PASMC) hyperplasia. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been recently acknowledged as a potential cell vector for gene therapy. Here, we investigated the effect of MSC-based let-7a for PAH.

METHODS: After isolation and identification of MSCs from rat bone marrow, cells were infected with recombinant adenovirus vector Ad-let-7a. Lewis rats were subcutaneously injected with monocrotaline (MCT) to induce PAH, followed by the administration of MSCs, MSCs-NC (miR-control), or MSC-let-7a, respectively. Then, right ventricular systolic pressure (RVSP), right ventricular hypertrophy, and pulmonary vascular remodeling were evaluated. Rat pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (rPASMCs) under hypoxia were co-cultured with MSCs or MSC-let-7a. Cell proliferation and apoptosis were separately determined by 3 H thymidine incorporation and flow cytometry analysis. The underlying mechanism was also investigated.

RESULTS: MSC transplantation enhanced let-7a levels in MCT-induced PAH rats. After injection with MSC-let-7a, RVSP, right ventricular hypertrophy, and pulmonary vascular remodeling were notably ameliorated, indicating a protective effect of MSC-let-7a against PAH. When co-cultured with MSC-let-7a, hypoxia-triggered PASMC proliferation was obviously attenuated, concomitant with the decrease in cell proliferation-associated proteins. Simultaneously, the resistance of PASMCs to apoptosis was remarkably abrogated by MSC-let-7a administration. A mechanism assay revealed that MSC-let-7a restrained the activation of signal transducers and activators of transcription 3 (STAT3) and increased its downstream bone morphogenetic protein receptor 2 (BMPR2) expression. Importantly, preconditioning with BMPR2 siRNA dramatically abated the suppressive effects of MSC-let-7a on PASMC proliferation and apoptosis resistance.

CONCLUSIONS: Collectively, this study suggests that MSCs modified with let-7a may ameliorate the progression of PAH by inhibiting PASMC growth through the STAT3-BMPR2 signaling, supporting a promising therapeutic strategy for PAH patients.

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