Molecular and cellular biology

RNA Activation of the Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Gene (VEGF) Promoter by Double-Stranded RNA and Hypoxia: Role of Noncoding VEGF Promoter Transcripts.

PMID 26976645


RNA activation (RNAa) is a gene regulation process in which promoter-targeted short double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) or microRNAs (miRs) induce target gene expression at the transcriptional level. Here, we investigate the presence of cryptic promoter transcripts within the VEGF promoter. Single-strand sense and antisense noncoding vascular endothelial growth factor (NcVEGF) promoter transcripts are identified, and their respective expression is studied in cells transfected with a VEGF promoter targeted dsRNA, namely, dsVEGF706, in hypoxic cells and in human malignant lung tissues. Interestingly, in dsVEGF706-transfected, as well as in hypoxic cells, NcVEGF expression levels increase coordinately with coding VEGF expression. Ago2 interaction with both sense and antisense NcVEGFs is increased in hypoxic cells, whereas in dsVEGF706-transfected cells, Ago2 and the antisense strand of the dsRNA interact specifically with the sense NcVEGF transcript. Furthermore, both dsVEGF706 and ectopic NcVEGF transcripts are able to activate the VEGF promoter endogenously present or in a reporter construct. Finally, using small interfering RNA targeting Ago2, we show that RNAa plays a role in the maintenance of increased VEGF and NcVEGF expression after hypoxia. Given the central role of VEGF in major human diseases, including cancer, this novel molecular mechanism is poised to reveal promising possibilities for therapeutic interventions.