TNF-α alters the release and transfer of microparticle-encapsulated miRNAs from endothelial cells

Tamas Alexy, Kimberly Rooney, Martina Weber, Warren D. Gray, Charles D. Searles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) encapsulated within microparticles (MPs) are likely to have a role in cell-to-cell signaling in a variety of diseases, including atherosclerosis. However, little is known about the mechanisms by which different cell types release and transfer miRNAs. Here, we examined TNF-α-induced release of MP-encapsulated miR-126, miR-21, and miR-155 from human aortic endothelial cells (ECs) and their transfer to recipient cells. ECs were treated with TNF-α (100 ng/ml) in the presence or absence of inhibitors that target different MP production pathways. MPs released in response to TNF-α were characterized by: 1) 70–80% decrease in miRNA/MP levels for miR-126 and -21 but a significant increase in pre-miR-155 and miR-155 (P < 0.05), 2) 50% reduction in uptake by recipient cells (P < 0.05), and 3) diminished ability to transfer miRNA to recipient cells. Cotreatment of donor ECs with TNF-α and caspase inhibitor (Q-VD-OPH, 10 μM) produced MPs that had: 1) 1.5- to 2-fold increase in miRNA/MP loading, 2) enhanced uptake by recipient cells (2-fold), and 3) increased ability to transfer miR-155. Cotreatment of ECs with TNF-α and Rho-associated kinase (ROCK) inhibitor (10 μM) produced MPs with features similar to those produced by TNF-α treatment alone. Our data indicate that TNF-α induced the production of distinct MP populations: ROCK-dependent, miRNA-rich MPs that effectively transferred their cargo and were antiapoptotic, and caspase-dependent, miRNA-poor MPs that were proapoptotic. These data provide insight into the relationship between MP production and extracellular release of miRNA, as well as the potential of encapsulated miRNA for cell-to-cell communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)833-840
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiological genomics
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 15 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 by the American Physiological Society.


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Endothelial cells
  • Extracellular RNA
  • Microparticles
  • TNF-α
  • miRNA release and transfer


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