The pulmonary endothelium is dysfunctional in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a known risk factor for lung cancer. The pulmonary endothelium is altered in emphysema, which is disproportionately affected by cancers. Gene and microRNA expression differs between COPD and non-COPD lung. We hypothesised that the alteration in microRNA expression in the pulmonary endothelium contributes to its dysfunction. A total of 28 patients undergoing pulmonary resection were recruited and endothelial cells were isolated from healthy lung and tumour. MicroRNA expression was compared between COPD and non-COPD patients. Positive findings were confirmed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Assays assessing angiogenesis and cellular migration were conducted in Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells (n = 3–4) transfected with microRNA mimics and compared to cells transfected with negative control RNA. Expression of miR-181b-3p, miR-429 and miR-23c (all p < 0.05) was increased in COPD. Over-expression of miR-181b-3p was associated with reduced endothelial sprouting (p < 0.05). miR-429 was overexpressed in lung cancer as well and exhibited a reduction in tubular formation. MicroRNA-driven changes in the pulmonary endothelium thus represent a novel mechanism driving emphysema. These processes warrant further study to determine if they may be therapeutic targets in COPD and lung cancer.
- pulmonary endothelium
- lung cancer