The short and long of noncoding sequences in the control of vascular cell phenotypes.

The two principal cell types of importance for normal vessel wall physiology are smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells. Much progress has been made over the past 20 years in the discovery and function of transcription factors that coordinate proper differentiation of these cells and the maintenance of vascular homeostasis. More recently, the converging fields of bioinformatics, genomics, and next generation sequencing have accelerated discoveries in a number of classes of noncoding sequences, including transcription factor binding sites (TFBS), microRNA genes, and long noncoding RNA genes, each of which mediates vascular cell differentiation through a variety of mechanisms. Alterations in the nucleotide sequence of key TFBS or deviations in transcription of noncoding RNA genes likely have adverse effects on normal vascular cell phenotype and function. Here, the subject of noncoding sequences that influence smooth muscle cell or endothelial cell phenotype will be summarized as will future directions to further advance our understanding of the increasingly complex molecular circuitry governing normal vascular cell differentiation and how such information might be harnessed to combat vascular diseases.

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