Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) play important roles in regulating diverse cellular processes in the vessel wall, including atherosclerosis. RNAseq profiling of intimal lesions revealed a lncRNA, VINAS (Vascular INfllammation and Atherosclerosis lncRNA Sequence), that is enriched in the aortic intima and regulates vascular inflammation. Aortic intimal expression of VINAS fell with atherosclerotic progression and rose with regression. VINAS knockdown reduced atherosclerotic lesion formation by 55% in LDLR-/- mice, independent of effects on circulating lipids, by decreasing inflammation in the vessel wall. Loss- and gain-of-function studies in vitro demonstrated that VINAS serves as a critical regulator of inflammation by modulating NF-κB and MAPK signaling pathways. VINAS knockdown decreased the expression of key inflammatory markers, such as MCP-1, TNF-α, IL-1β , COX-2, in endothelial (EC), vascular smooth muscle cells, and bone marrow-derived macrophages. Moreover, VINAS silencing decreased expression of leukocyte adhesion molecules VCAM-1, E-selectin, and ICAM-1 and reduced monocyte adhesion to ECs. DEPDC4, an evolutionary conserved human ortholog of VINAS with ~74% homology, shows similar regulation in human and pig atherosclerotic specimens. DEPDC4 knockdown replicated VINAS’ anti-inflammatory effects in human ECs. These findings reveal a novel lncRNA that regulates vascular inflammation, with broad implications for vascular diseases.
Viorel Simion, Haoyang Zhou, Jacob B. Pierce, Dafeng Yang, Stefan Haemmig, Yevgenia Tesmenitsky, Galina Sukhova, Peter H. Stone, Peter Libby, Mark W. Feinberg