Restoration of WT1/miR-769-5p axis by HDAC1 inhibition promotes MMT reversal in mesenchymal-like mesothelial cells

Giulio Bontempi, Michela Terri, Sabrina Garbo, Claudia Montaldo, Davide Mariotti, Veronica Bordoni, Sergio Valente, Clemens Zwergel, Antonello Mai, Alessandra Marchetti, Alessandro Domenici, Paolo Menè, Cecilia Battistelli, Marco Tripodi, Raffaele Strippoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Histone acetylation/deacetylation play an essential role in modifying chromatin structure and in regulating cell plasticity in eukaryotic cells. Therefore, histone deacetylase (HDAC) pharmacological inhibitors are promising tools in the therapy of fibrotic diseases and in cancer. Peritoneal fibrosis is a pathological process characterized by many cellular and molecular alterations, including the acquisition of invasive/pro-fibrotic abilities by mesothelial cells (MCs) through induction of mesothelial to mesenchymal transition (MMT). The aim of this study was to characterize the molecular mechanism of the antifibrotic role of HDAC1 inhibition. Specifically, treatment with MS-275, an HDAC1-3 inhibitor previously known to promote MMT reversal, induced the expression of several TGFBRI mRNA-targeting miRNAs. Among them, miR-769-5p ectopic expression was sufficient to promote MMT reversal and to limit MC migration and invasion, whereas miR-769-5p silencing further enhanced mesenchymal gene expression. These results were confirmed by HDAC1 genetic silencing. Interestingly, miR-769-5p silencing maintained mesenchymal features despite HDAC1 inhibition, thus indicating that it is necessary to drive MMT reversal induced by HDAC1 inhibition. Besides TGFBRI, miR-769-5p was demonstrated to target SMAD2/3 and PAI-1 expression directly. When analyzing molecular mechanisms underlying miR-769-5p expression, we found that the transcription factor Wilms’ tumor 1 (WT1), a master gene controlling MC development, binds to the miR-769-5p promoter favoring its expression. Interestingly, both WT1 expression and binding to miR-769-5p promoter were increased by HDAC1 inhibition and attenuated by TGFβ1 treatment. Finally, we explored the significance of these observations in the cell-to-cell communication: we evaluated the ability of miR-769-5p to be loaded into extracellular vesicles (EVs) and to promote MMT reversal in recipient mesenchymal-like MCs. Treatment of fibrotic MCs with EVs isolated from miR-769-5p over-expressing MCs promoted the down-regulation of specific mesenchymal targets and the reacquisition of an epithelial-like morphology. In conclusion, we highlighted an HDAC1-WT1-miR-769-5p axis potentially relevant for therapies aimed at counteracting organ fibrosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number965
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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