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Circular RNA circLIFR regulates the proliferation, migration, invasion and apoptosis of human vascular smooth muscle cells via the miR-1299/KDR axis


Dysfunction of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) plays a critical role in the development of intracranial aneurysm (IA). Here, we explored the detailed role and mechanism of circular RNA (circRNA) LIF receptor subunit alpha (circLIFR, circ_0072309) in human umbilical artery smooth muscle cells (HUASMCs). CircLIFR, microRNA (miR)-1299 and kinase insert domain receptor (KDR) expression levels were evaluated by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and western blot assays. Cell proliferation was assessed by Cell Counting Kit-8 (CCK-8) and 5-Ethynyl-2’-Deoxyuridine (EdU) assays. Cell migration was gauged by wound-healing and transwell assays. Cell invasion and apoptosis were detected by transwell assay and flow cytometry, respectively. Direct relationship between miR-1299 and circLIFR or KDR was verified by dual-luciferase reporter and RNA immunoprecipitation (RIP) assays. CircLIFR and KDR were down-regulated and miR-1299 was up-regulated in the artery wall tissues and ASMCs of IA patients. Enforced expression of circLIFR enhanced HUASMC proliferation, migration, invasion, and impeded apoptosis. Mechanistically, circLIFR directly targeted miR-1299, and miR-1299 was a downstream mediator of circLIFR in regulating the proliferation, migration, invasion and apoptosis of HUASMCs. KDR was identified as a direct and functional target of miR-1299 in HUASMCs. Furthermore, circLIFR was a post-transcriptional regulator of KDR expression through miR-1299. Our findings suggest that circLIFR, an underexpressed circRNA in IA, can regulate the proliferation, migration, invasion and apoptosis of HUASMCs depending on the miR-1299/KDR axis.

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Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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The present study was supported by Key Natural Science Projects of Universities in Anhui Province (No. KJ2020A0970) and Young Talents Support Project in Anhui Provin- ce China (No. gxyqZD2020065).

Author information




Hui Zhang and Bin Zhang participated in the design of the work, methodology, data interpretation, and analysis for the work, carried out the statistical analysis and drafted the manuscript. Chen Chen participated in the methodology, data interpretation, conceptualization and resources. Jie Chen participated in methodology, investigation and software.

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Correspondence to Hui Zhang.

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Supplementary Information

Supplement Table 1

Sequences of primers used for qRT-PCR. (PDF 237 kb)

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Zhang, H., Zhang, B., Chen, C. et al. Circular RNA circLIFR regulates the proliferation, migration, invasion and apoptosis of human vascular smooth muscle cells via the miR-1299/KDR axis. Metab Brain Dis (2021).

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  • Intracranial aneurysm
  • circLIFR
  • miR-1299
  • KDR