Nowadays, there are ton of ways to talk to your friends—phone, text, email, Facebook, Twitter, Skype…Now, an international team of researchers add to the growing literature showing that cells can talk to each other by sending out vesicles with miRNAs in them. This time, the cells are inside blood vessels, and the message is to stop fat, cholesterol, and other substances from building up and causing atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
Endothelial cells line blood vessels, and they express KLF2, which protects against atherosclerosis. Smooth muscle cells (SMCs) also are along blood vessel walls, and they need miRNA-143 and -145 to work correctly. Researchers have suspected a link between endothelial cells and SMCs, but didn’t know what was really going on.
The team from Germany, The Netherlands, and the U.K. found that endothelial cells wrap up miRNA-143 and -145 into vesicles, which are then taken up by neighboring SMCs. Here’s a taste of the data:
- KLF2 increased expression of miRNA-143 and -145 in endothelial cells. (Up until now, those miRNAs had only been studied in SMCs, say the scientists.)
- The miRNAs wound up in vesicles originating from endothelial cells.
- In a co-culture system, the researchers showed that those vesicles can transfer from endothelial cells to SMCs, where they protect against atherosclerosis. They also showed this protective effect in mouse in vivo studies.
The team concludes that these vesicles could be promising therapeutic targets to fight atherosclerosis. Read all the details at Nature Cell Biology, February 2012