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Researchers identify a gene that may play a key role in atherosclerosis and other diseases
Date:3/15/2010

e responds to different flow environments and chemical treatments. They exposed human umbilical vein endothelial cells to disturbed flow -- which occurs in artery regions where plaques form -- and found that the cells expressed higher levels of HuR than when they experienced a static or laminar flow environment. This finding was validated in tissue experiments with results showing increased amounts of HuR in regions of a mouse aorta that were exposed to disturbed flow.

Then the researchers treated endothelial cells with statins, medications used to treat atherosclerosis by reducing the number of cholesterol-containing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) molecules in the blood and inhibiting inflammation. The results indicated a decreased level of HuR with statin treatment.

After establishing HuR as a stress-sensitive gene regulated by external stimuli, including flow and statin treatment, the researchers conducted experiments to determine whether HuR regulates the expression of other stress-sensitive genes. They found that reducing the level of HuR in cells increased the levels of two genes that combat atherosclerosis -- Kruppel-like factor 2 (Klf2) and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). The reduction in HuR also decreased the expression of bone morphogenic protein-4 (BMP-4), a gene that supports atherosclerosis.

Reducing the level of HuR in cells also significantly inhibited many inflammatory responses of the endothelial cells, including the expression of two potential atherosclerosis drug targets: inter-cellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1).

Though this study showed that HuR plays a critical role in inducing and mediating an inflammatory response in cells subjected to a stressful environment, the underlying mechanism for this regulation is still not known.

"HuR protein often binds to messenger RNAs to increase their stability and translation, but we found that regulation o
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Contact: Abby Vogel
avogel@gatech.edu
404-385-3364
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
Source:Eurekalert  

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