Korean J Intern Med.  2021 May;36(3):706-720. 10.3904/kjim.2020.132.

MicroRNA-21 inhibition attenuates airway inflammation and remodelling by modulating the transforming growth factor β–Smad7 pathway

  • 1Division of Allergy and Pulmonary Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, College of Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Korea


Current asthma therapies remain unsatisfactory for controlling airway remodelling in asthma. MicroRNA-21 is a key player in asthma pathogenesis, but the molecular mechanisms underlying its effects on airway remodelling are not completely understood. We investigated the effects of inhibition of microRNA-21 on allergic airway inflammation and remodelling.
Female BALB/c mice were divided into four groups: control, ovalbumin-sensitized and -challenged for 3 months, microRNA-negative control-treated ovalbumin-treated, and microRNA-21 inhibitor-treated ovalbumin-treated groups. Parameters related to airway remodelling, cytokine production, airway inflammation, and airway hyperresponsiveness were compared between groups. Human bronchial smooth muscle cells were used in a mechanism study.
In this asthma model, ovalbumin-sensitized and -challenged mice exhibited allergic airway inf lammation and airway remodelling. MicroRNA-21 inhibitor-treated mice had fewer inflammatory cells, lower TH2 cytokine production, and suppressed parameters related to remodelling such as goblet cell hyperplasia, collagen deposition, hydroxyproline content, and expression of smooth muscle actin. Inhibition of microRNA-21 decreased transforming growth factor β1 expression and induced Smad7 expression in lung tissue. In human bronchial smooth muscle cells stimulated with transforming growth factor β1, microRNA-21 inhibition upregulated Smad7 expression and decreased markers of airway remodelling.
Inhibition of microRNA-21 had both anti-inflammatory and anti-remodelling effects in this model of ovalbumin-induced chronic asthma. Our data suggest that the microRNA-21–transforming growth factor β1–Smad7 axis modulates the pathogenesis of ovalbumin-induced chronic asthma and in human bronchial smooth muscle cells. MicroRNA-21 inhibitors may be a novel therapeutic target in patients with allergic asthma, especially those with airway remodelling.


Asthma; MicroRNA-21; Smad7; Airway remodelling
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