Atrial fibrosis is an essential contributor to atrial fibrillation (AF). It remains unclear whether atrial endocardial endothelial cells (AEECs) that undergo endothelial-mesenchymal transition (EndMT) are among the sources of atrial fibroblasts. We studied human atria, TGF-β–treated human AEECs, cardiac-specific TGF-β–transgenic mice, and heart failure rabbits to identify the underlying mechanism of EndMT in atrial fibrosis. Using isolated AEECs, we found that miR-181b was induced in TGF-β–treated AEECs, which decreased semaphorin 3A (Sema3A) and increased EndMT markers, and these effects could be reversed by a miR-181b antagomir. Experiments in which Sema3A was increased by a peptide or decreased by a siRNA in AEECs revealed a mechanistic link between Sema3A and LIM-kinase 1/phosphorylated cofilin (LIMK/p-cofilin) signaling and suggested that Sema3A is upstream of LIMK in regulating actin remodeling through p-cofilin. Administration of the miR-181b antagomir or recombinant Sema3A to TGF-β–transgenic mice evoked increased Sema3A, reduced EndMT markers, and significantly decreased atrial fibrosis and AF vulnerability. Our study provides a mechanistic link between the induction of EndMT by TGF-β via miR-181b/Sema3A/LIMK/p-cofilin signaling to atrial fibrosis. Blocking miR-181b and increasing Sema3A are potential strategies for AF therapeutic intervention.
Ying-Ju Lai, Feng-Chun Tsai, Gwo-Jyh Chang, Shang-Hung Chang, Chung-Chi Huang, Wei-Jan Chen, Yung-Hsin Yeh