Elastic fibers do not naturally regenerate in many proteolytic disorders, such as in abdominal aortic aneurysms, and prevent restoration of tissue homeostasis. We have shown drug-based attenuation of the stress-Activated protein kinase, JNK-2 to stimulate elastic matrix neoassembly and to attenuate cellular proteolytic activity. We now investigate if JNK2 gene knockdown with small interfering RNA (siRNA) provides greater specificity of action and improved regenerative/antiproteolytic outcomes in a proteolytic injury culture model of rat aneurysmal smooth muscle cells (EaRASMCs). A siRNA dose of 12.5 nM delivered with a transfection reagent significantly enhanced downstream elastic fiber assembly and maturation versus untreated EaRASMC cultures. The optimal siRNA dose was also delivered as a complex with a polymeric transfection vector, polyethyleneimine (PEI) in preparation for future in vivo delivery. Linear 25 kDa PEI-siRNA (5:1 molar ratio of amine to phosphate) and linear 40 kDa PEI-siRNA (2.5:1 ratio) were effective in downregulating the JNK2 gene, and significantly increasing expression of elastic fiber assembly proteins, and decreases in elastolytic matrix metalloprotease-2 versus treatment controls to significantly increase mature elastic fiber assembly. The current work has identified siRNA dosing and siRNA-PEI complexing conditions that are safe and efficient in stimulating processes contributing to improved elastic matrix neoassembly via JNK2 gene knockdown. The results represent a mechanistic basis of a broader therapeutic approach to reverse elastic matrix pathophysiology in tissue disorders involving aberrations of elastic matrix homeostasis, such as in aortic aneurysms. The elastic matrix and elastic fibers are key components of the structural extracellular matrix of elastic tissues and are essential to their stretch and recoil and to maintain healthy cell phenotype. Regeneration and repair of elastic matrix is naturally poor and impaired and is an unresolved challenge in tissue engineering. In this work, we investigate a novel gene silencing approach based on inhibiting the JNK2 gene, which provides significant downstream benefits to elastic fiber assembly and maturation. Combined with novel delivery strategies such as nanoparticles, we expect our approach to effect in situ elastic matrix repair in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-253
Number of pages15
JournalTissue Engineering - Part A
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • elastin
  • extracellular matrix
  • vascular tissue repair


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