• © 2017 Hori et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Background Endothelial dysfunction and arterial stiffening play major roles in cardiovascular diseases. The critical role for the miR-181 family in vascular inflammation has been documented. Here we tested whether the miR-181 family can influence the pathogenesis of hypertension and vascular stiffening. Methods and results qPCR data showed a significant decrease in miR-181b expression in the aorta of the older mice. Eight miR-181a1/b1-/- mice and wild types (C57BL6J:WT) were followed weekly for pulse wave velocity (PWV) and blood pressure measurements. After 20 weeks, the mice were tested for endothelial function and aortic modulus. There was a progressive increase in PWV and higher systolic blood pressure in miR-181a1/b1-/- mice compared with WTs. At 21 weeks, aortic modulus was significantly greater in the miR-181a1/b1-/- group, and serum TGF-β was found to be elevated at this time. A luciferase reporter assay confirmed miR-181b targets TGF-βi (TGF-β induced) in the aortic VSMCs. In contrast, wire myography revealed unaltered endothelial function along with higher nitric oxide production in the miR-181a1/b1-/- group. Cultured VECs and VSMCs from the mouse aorta showed more secreted TGF-β in VSMCs of the miR-181a1/b1-/- group; whereas, no change was observed from VECs. Circulating levels of angiotensin II were similar in both groups. Treatment with losartan (0.6 g/L) prevented the increase in PWV, blood pressure, and vascular stiffness in miR-181a1/b1-/- mice. Immunohistochemistry and western blot for p-SMAD2/3 validated the inhibitory effect of losartan on TGF-β signaling in miR-181a1/b1-/- mice. Conclusions Decreased miR-181b with aging plays a critical role in ECM remodeling by removing the brake on the TGF-β, pSMAD2/3 pathway.
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