MiRNA-21a, miRNA-145, and miRNA-221 Expression and Their Correlations with WNT Proteins in Patients with Obstructive and Non-Obstructive Coronary Artery Disease

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Dec 18;24(24):17613. doi: 10.3390/ijms242417613.


MicroRNAs and the WNT signaling cascade regulate the pathogenetic mechanisms of atherosclerotic coronary artery disease (CAD) development.

Objective: To evaluate the expression of microRNAs (miR-21a, miR-145, and miR-221) and the role of the WNT signaling cascade (WNT1, WNT3a, WNT4, and WNT5a) in obstructive CAD and ischemia with no obstructive coronary arteries (INOCA).

Method: The cross-sectional observational study comprised 94 subjects. The expression of miR-21a, miR-145, miR-221 (RT-PCR) and the protein levels of WNT1, WNT3a, WNT4, WNT5a, LRP6, and SIRT1 (ELISA) were estimated in the plasma of 20 patients with INOCA (66.5 [62.8; 71.2] years; 25% men), 44 patients with obstructive CAD (64.0 [56.5; 71,0] years; 63.6% men), and 30 healthy volunteers without risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVD).

Results: Higher levels of WNT1 (0.189 [0.184; 0.193] ng/mL vs. 0.15 [0.15-0.16] ng/mL, p < 0.001) and WNT3a (0.227 [0.181; 0.252] vs. 0.115 [0.07; 0.16] p < 0.001) were found in plasma samples from patients with obstructive CAD, whereas the INOCA group was characterized by higher concentrations of WNT4 (0.345 [0.278; 0.492] ng/mL vs. 0.203 [0.112; 0.378] ng/mL, p = 0.025) and WNT5a (0.17 [0.16; 0.17] ng/mL vs. 0.01 [0.007; 0.018] ng/mL, p < 0.001). MiR-221 expression level was higher in all CAD groups compared to the control group (p < 0.001), whereas miR-21a was more highly expressed in the control group than in the obstructive (p = 0.012) and INOCA (p = 0.003) groups. Correlation analysis revealed associations of miR-21a expression with WNT1 (r = -0.32; p = 0.028) and SIRT1 (r = 0.399; p = 0.005) protein levels in all CAD groups. A positive correlation between miR-145 expression and the WNT4 protein level was observed in patients with obstructive CAD (r = 0.436; p = 0.016). Based on multivariate regression analysis, a mathematical model was constructed that predicts the type of coronary lesion. WNT3a and LRP6 were the independent predictors of INOCA (p < 0.001 and p = 0.002, respectively).

Conclusions: Activation of the canonical cascade of WNT-β-catenin prevailed in patients with obstructive CAD, whereas in the INOCA and control groups, the activity of the non-canonical pathway was higher. It can be assumed that miR-21a has a negative effect on the formation of atherosclerotic CAD. Alternatively, miR-145 could be involved in the development of coronary artery obstruction, presumably through the regulation of the WNT4 protein. A mathematical model with WNT3a and LRP6 as predictors allows for the prediction of the type of coronary artery lesion.

Keywords: SIRT1; WNT cascade proteins (WNT1, WNT3a, WNT4, WNT5a, LRP6); cardiovascular diseases; coronary artery disease; ischemia with no obstructive coronary arteries; microRNA (miR-21a, miR-145, miR-221).

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Atherosclerosis*
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / metabolism
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism
  • Sirtuin 1 / metabolism
  • Wnt Proteins / genetics
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway* / genetics
  • Wnt4 Protein / genetics


  • MicroRNAs
  • MIRN145 microRNA, human
  • MIRN221 microRNA, human
  • Sirtuin 1
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Wnt4 Protein
  • MIRN21 microRNA, human