MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent a class of small non-coding RNAs that control gene expression by targeting mRNAs and triggering either repression of translation or RNA degradation. They have been shown to be involved in a variety of biological processes such as development, differentiation and cell cycle control, but little is known about their involvement in the response to irradiation. We showed here that in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) some miRNAs previously shown to have a crucial role in vascular biology are transiently modulated in response to a clinically relevant dose of ionizing radiation. In particular we identified an early transcriptional induction of several members of the microRNA cluster 17–92 and other microRNAs already known to be related to angiogenesis. At the same time we observed a peculiar behavior of the miR-221/222 cluster, suggesting an important role of these microRNAs in HUVEC homeostasis. We observed an increased efficiency in the formation of capillary-like structures in irradiated HUVEC. These results could lead to a new interpretation of the effect of ionizing radiation on endothelial cells and on the response of tumor endothelial bed cells to radiotherapy.

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