LINC01013 Is a Determinant of Fibroblast Activation and Encodes a Novel Fibroblast-Activating Micropeptide

J Cardiovasc Transl Res. 2022 Jun 27. doi: 10.1007/s12265-022-10288-z. Online ahead of print.


Myocardial fibrosis confers an almost threefold mortality risk in heart disease. There are no prognostic therapies and novel therapeutic targets are needed. Many thousands of unannotated small open reading frames (smORFs) have been identified across the genome with potential to produce micropeptides (< 100 amino acids). We sought to investigate the role of smORFs in myocardial fibroblast activation.Analysis of human cardiac atrial fibroblasts (HCFs) stimulated with profibrotic TGFβ1 using RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) and ribosome profiling (Ribo-Seq) identified long intergenic non-coding RNA LINC01013 as TGFβ1 responsive and containing an actively translated smORF. Knockdown of LINC01013 using siRNA reduced expression of profibrotic markers at baseline and blunted their response to TGFβ1. In contrast, overexpression of a codon-optimised smORF invoked a profibrotic response comparable to that seen with TGFβ1 treatment, whilst FLAG-tagged peptide associated with the mitochondria.Together, these data support a novel LINC01013 smORF micropeptide-mediated mechanism of fibroblast activation. TGFβ1 stimulation of atrial fibroblasts induces expression of LINC01013, whose knockdown reduces fibroblast activation. Overexpression of a smORF contained within LINC01013 localises to mitochondria and activates fibroblasts.

Keywords: Micropeptide; Myocardial fibrosis; Small open reading frame; Translation; lncRNA.