Small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) as natural membranous vesicles are on the frontiers of nanomedical research, due to their ability to deliver therapeutic molecules such as microRNAs (miRNAs). The miRNA-21 (miR-21) is thought to be involved in the initiation and development of myocardial infarction (MI). Here, we examined whether miR-21 regulation using human peripheral blood-derived sEVs (PB-sEVs) could serve as a potential therapeutic strategy for MI. First, we examined miR-21 levels in hypoxic conditions and validated the ability of PB-sEVs to serve as a potential delivery system for miRNAs. Further, bioinformatics analysis and luciferase assay were performed to identify target genes of miR-21 mechanistically. Among numerous target pathways, we focused on nitrogen metabolism, which remains relatively unexplored compared with other possible miR-21-mediated pathways; hence, we aimed to determine novel target genes of miR-21 related to nitrogen metabolism. In hypoxic conditions, the expression of miR-21 was significantly up-regulated and correlated with nitric oxide synthase 3 (NOS3) levels, which in turn influences cardiac function. The down-regulation of miR-21 expression by PB-sEVs loaded with anti-miR-21 significantly improved survival rates, consistent with the augmentation of cardiac function. However, the up-regulation of miR-21 expression by PB-sEVs loaded with miR-21 reversed these effects. Mechanistically, miR-21 targeted and down-regulated the mRNA and protein expression of striatin (STRN), which could regulate NOS3 expression. In conclusion, we identified a novel therapeutic strategy to improve cardiac function by regulating the expression of miR-21 with PB-sEVs as an miR-21 or anti-miR-21 delivery vehicle and confirmed the miR-21-associated nitrogen metabolic disorders in MI.
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