Endothelium-specific endothelin-1 expression promotes pro-inflammatory macrophage activation by regulating miR-33/NR4A axis

Exp Cell Res. 2021 Feb 1;399(1):112443. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2020.112443. Epub 2020 Dec 16.


The hallmark of atherogenesis is characterized as endothelial dysfunction and subsequent macrophage activation. Although our previous study has demonstrated that endothelin-1 (ET-1) plays an important role in atherogenesis, the underlying mechanism remains deeply investigation. Enhanced atherosclerotic plaques were observed in endothelium-specific ET-1 overexpression ApoE-/- mice (eET-1/ApoE-/-) concomitant with increased secretion of pro-inflammatory adhesion molecules and cytokines. The conditional media used for culturing human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) with AdET-1 infection and subjected to OX-LDL stimulation, was collected and utilized for bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs) culturing. RT-PCR analysis showed increased genes expression related to classical M1 macrophages but decreased alternative activated M2 macrophages genes expression in macrophage culturing with the conditional media. Furthermore, consistent regulations of macrophage polarization were observed using isolated exosomes from the conditional media. More importantly, we noticed that miR-33 was enriched in the exosomes derived by HUVECs with AdET-1 infection, while bioinformatics analysis further indicated that miR-33 directly targeted NR4A and miR-33/NR4A axis was required for the effect of endothelial-specific ET-1 overexpression on pro-inflammatory macrophage activation. By contrast, such effects could be reversed by ET-1 knockdown. Taken together, our study indicated that the exosomes derived by HUVECs with AdET-1 infection can transfer miR-33 to macrophages and subsequently promote pro-inflammatory macrophage activation by directly targeting to NR4A. These evidences clearly revealed that miR-33/NR4A axis was the important mechanism underlying the effect of ET-1 on macrophage activation and indicated that ET-1 may act as a promising target for atherosclerosis management.

Keywords: Endothelial-1; HUVECs; Macrophages; NR4A; miR-33.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Endothelin-1 / genetics*
  • Endothelin-1 / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Macrophage Activation / genetics*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4, Group A, Member 1 / genetics*
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4, Group A, Member 1 / metabolism
  • Organ Specificity / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / genetics


  • Endothelin-1
  • MIRN33a microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • NR4A1 protein, human
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4, Group A, Member 1