First published December 27, 2018 - More info
Non-coding RNAs are emerging as important players in gene regulation and disease pathogeneses. Here, we show that a previously uncharacterized long non-coding RNA, NEXN-AS1, modulates the expression of the actin-binding protein NEXN and that NEXN exerts a protective role against atherosclerosis. An expression microarray analysis showed that the expression of both NEXN-AS1 and NEXN were reduced in human atherosclerotic plaques. In vitro experiments revealed that NEXN-AS1 interacted with the chromatin remodeler BAZ1A and the 5′-flanking region of the NEXN gene, and upregulated NEXN expression. Augmentation of NEXN-AS1 expression inhibited toll-like receptor-4 oligomerization and NFκB activity, downregulated the expression of adhesion molecules and inflammatory cytokines by endothelial cells, and suppressed monocyte adhesion to endothelial cells. These inhibitory effects of NEXN-AS1 were abolished by knockdown of NEXN. In vivo experiments of ApoE knockout mice fed a Western high-fat diet demonstrated that NEXN deficiency promoted atherosclerosis and increased macrophage abundance in atherosclerotic lesions, with heightened expression of adhesion molecules and inflammatory cytokines, whereas augmented NEXN expression deterred atherosclerosis. A group of patients with coronary artery disease were found to have lower blood NEXN levels than healthy individuals. These results indicate that NEXN-AS1 and NEXN represent potential therapeutic targets in atherosclerosis related diseases.