Background: Endothelial cells (EC) in tumor and normal tissue constitute critical radiotherapy targets. MicroRNAs have emerged as master switchers of the cellular transcriptome. Here, we seek to investigate the role of miRNAs in primary human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HDMEC) after ionizing radiation.
Methods: The microRNA status in HDMEC after 2 Gy radiation treatment was measured using oligo-microarrays covering 361 miRNAs. To functionally analyze the role of radiation-induced differentially regulated miRNAs, cells were transfected with miRNA precursor or inhibitor constructs. Clonogenic survival and proliferation assays were performed.
Results: Radiation up-regulated miRNA expression levels included let-7g, miR-16, miR-20a, miR-21 and miR-29c, while miR-18a, miR-125a, miR-127, miR-148b, miR-189 and miR-503 were down-regulated. We found that overexpression or inhibition of let-7g, miR-189, and miR-20a markedly influenced clonogenic survival and cell proliferation per se. Notably, the radiosensitivity of HDMEC was significantly influenced by differential expression of miR-125a, -127, -189, and let-7g. While miR-125a and miR-189 had a radioprotective effect, miR-127 and let-7g enhanced radiosensitivity in human endothelial cells.
Conclusion: Our data show that ionizing radiation changes microRNA levels in human endothelial cells and, moreover, exerts biological effects on cell growth and clonogenicity as validated in functional assays. The data also suggest that the miRNAs which are differentially expressed after radiation modulate the intrinsic radiosensitivity of endothelial cells in subsequent irradiations. This indicates that miRNAs are part of the innate response mechanism of the endothelium to radiation.