The Activation of Human Dermal Microvascular Cells by Poly(I:C), Lipopolysaccharide, Imiquimod, and ODN2395 Is Mediated by the Fli1/FOXO3A Pathway [INNATE IMMUNITY AND INFLAMMATION]

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Endothelial cell (EC) dysfunction has been associated with inflammatory and autoimmune diseases; however, the factors contributing to this dysfunction have not been fully explored. Because activation of TLRs has been implicated in autoimmune diseases, the goal of this study was to determine the effects of TLR ligands on EC function. Human dermal microvascular ECs (HDMECs) treated with TLR3 [Poly(I:C)], TLR4 (LPS), and TLR7 (imiquimod) agonists showed decreased proliferation and a reduced total number of branching tubules in three-dimensional human dermal organoid ex vivo culture. In contrast, the TLR9 ligand class C, ODN2395, increased angiogenesis. The antiproliferative effects of TLR3, TLR4, and TLR7 ligands correlated with significant downregulation of a key regulator of vascular homeostasis, Fli1, whereas TLR9 increased Fli1 levels. Furthermore, Poly(I:C) and LPS induced endothelial to mesenchymal transition that was reversed by the pretreatment with TGF-β neutralizing Ab or re-expression of Fli1. We showed that Fli1 was required for the HDMEC proliferation by transcriptionally repressing FOXO3A. In contrast to TLR9, which suppressed activation of the FOXO3A pathway, TLR3, TLR4, and TLR7 ligands activated FOXO3A as indicated by decreased phosphorylation and increased nuclear accumulation. The inverse correlation between Fli1 and FOXO3A was also observed in the vasculature of scleroderma patients. This work revealed opposing effects of TLR9 and TLR3, TLR4, and TLR7 on the key angiogenic pathways, Fli1 and FOXO3A. Our results provide a mechanistic insight into the regulation of angiogenesis by TLRs and confirm a central role of Fli1 in regulating vascular homeostasis.

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