Vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) proliferation and migration are vital to atherosclerosis (AS) development and plaque rupture. MicroRNA-377-3p (miR-377-3p) has been reported to inhibit AS in apolipoprotein E knockout (ApoE-/-) mice. Herein, the mechanism underlying the effect of miR-377-3p on alleviating AS is explored. In vivo experiments, ApoE-/- mice were fed with high-fat diet (HFD) to induce AS and treated with miR-377-3p agomir or negative control agomir (agomir-NC) on week 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 after HFD feeding. MiR-377-3p was found to restore HFD-induced AS lesions and expressions of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2, MMP-9, α-smooth muscle actin (α-actin) and calponin. In vitro experiments, human VSMCs were tranfected with miR-377-3p agomir or agomir-NC, followed by treatment with oxidized low-density lipoprotein (ox-LDL). MiR-377-3p was observed to significantly inhibit ox-LDL-induced VSMC proliferation characterized by inhibited cell viability, expressions of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), cyclin D1 and cyclin E and cell cycle transition from G1 to S phase accompanied with less 5-Ethynyl-2’-deoxyuridine (EdU)-positive cells. Furthermore, MiR-377-3p significantly inhibited ox-LDL-induced VSMC migration characterized by inhibited wound closure and decreased relative VSMC migration. Besides, neuropilin2 (NRP2) was verified as a target of miR-377-3p. MiR-377-3p was observed to inhibit NRP2 expressions in vivo and in vitro. Moreover, miR-377-3p significantly inhibited MMP-2 and MMP-9 expressions in human VSMCs. Additionally, miR-377-3p-induced inhibition of VSMC proliferation and migration could be attenuated by NRP2 overexpression. These results indicated that miR-377-3p inhibited VSMC proliferation and migration via targeting NRP2. This study provides an underlying mechanism for miR-377-3p-based AS therapy.

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