BACKGROUND: MicroRNAs (miRNA, miR) are noncoding translation. miRNA expression profiles have been shown to differ in vivo and in vitro in many cellular processes associated with cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). The progression of CVDs has also been shown to alter the blood miRNA profile in humans. CONTENT: We summarize the results of animal and cell experiments concerning the miRNA profile in the atherosclerotic process and the changes which occur in the blood miRNA profile of individuals with CVD. We also survey the relationship of these CVD-related miRNAs and their expression in the human advanced atherosclerotic plaque, thereby providing more insight into miRNA function in human atherosclerotic lesions. The miRNAs miR-126, -134, -145, -146a, -198, -210, -340*, and -92a were found to be expressed differently in the blood of individuals affected and unaffected by CVD. These differences paralleled those seen in tissue comparisons of miRNA expression in advanced atherosclerotic plaques and healthy arteries. Furthermore, several miRNAs associated with atherosclerosis in in vitro studies (such as miR-10a, -126, -145, -146a/b, -185, -210, and -326) were expressed in plaques in a similar pattern as was predicted by the in vitro experiments. The clinical implications of miRNAs in atherosclerosis as biomarkers and as possible drug targets are also reviewed. SUMMARY: miRNA profiles in in vitro and in vivo studies as well as in human peripheral blood are quite representative of the miRNA expression in human atherosclerotic plaques. miRNAs appear promising in terms of future clinical applications.
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