Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) plays central roles in endothelial-mesenchymal transition (EndMT) involved in development and pathogenesis. Although EndMT and epithelial-mesenchymal transition are similar processes, roles of microRNAs in EndMT are largely unknown. Here, we report that constitutively active microRNA-31 (miR-31) is a positive regulator of TGF-β-induced EndMT. Although the expression is not induced by TGF-β, miR-31 is required for induction of mesenchymal genes including α-SMA, actin reorganization and MRTF-A activation during EndMT. We identified VAV3, a regulator of actin remodeling and MRTF-A activity, as a miR-31 target. Global transcriptome analysis further showed that miR-31 positively regulates EndMT-associated unique secretory phenotype (EndMT-SP) characterized by induction of multiple inflammatory chemokines and cytokines including CCL17, CX3CL1, CXCL16, IL-6 and Angptl2. As a mechanism for this phenomenon, TGF-β and miR-31 suppress Stk40, a negative regulator of NF-κB pathway. Interestingly, TGF-β induces alternative polyadenylation (APA)-coupled miR-31-dependent Stk40 suppression without concomitant miR-31 induction, and APA-mediated exclusion of internal poly(A) sequence in Stk40 3'UTR enhances target efficiency of Stk40. Finally, miR-31 functions as a molecular hub to integrate TGF-β and TNF-α signaling to enhance EndMT. These data confirm that constitutively active microRNAs, as well as inducible microRNAs, serve as phenotypic modifiers interconnected with transcriptome dynamics during EndMT.
© 2015 The Molecular Biology Society of Japan and Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd.