MicroRNAs are negative regulators of gene expression that have been shown to be essential
elements in the coordination of complex regulatory pathways. One of these short non-coding RNAs,
microRNA-126, is highly enriched in the vascular endothelium and was shown to play distinct roles in
angiogenesis, vasculogenesis and endothelial inflammation. Abrogation of this microRNA leads to severe
complications in the response in vascular development as well as vital repair mechanisms carried
out by endothelial cells. Interestingly, recent data suggest that the homeostatic role of microRNA-126 may reach far beyond
its endothelial functions as this microRNA was also found to be present in cells of the hematopoietic system and in
microvesicles or ‘free-form’ in the periphery. MicroRNA-126 is controlling the fate and/or function of a variety of cells
differentiating from the hematopoietic lineage, including megakaryocytes and erythrocytes. Recent studies identified circulating
microRNA-126 as a biomarker for myocardial injury and vascular damage in diabetes. Furthermore, reports have
suggested a protective role of circulating microRNA-126 in murine models of organ ischemia. Here, we review current insights
in the role of microRNA-126 in vascular homeostasis and conclude that this microRNA may serve to integrate and
facilitate both local as well as systemic functions in vascular maintenance and repair.
Keywords: Endothelial cells, hematopoietic cells, microRNA-126, microvesicles, platelets, vascular biology.
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