Genetic perturbation of IFN-α transcriptional modulators in human endothelial cells uncovers pivotal regulators of angiogenesis

Francesco Ciccarese, Angela Grassi, Lorenza Pasqualini, Stefania Rosano, Alessio Noghero, Francesca Montenegro, Federico Bussolino, Barbara Di Camillo, Lorenzo Finesso, Gianna Maria Toffolo, Stefania Mitola, Stefano Indraccolo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interferon-α (IFN-α) comprises a family of 13 cytokines involved in the modulation of antiviral, immune, and anticancer responses by orchestrating a complex transcriptional network. The activation of IFN-α signaling pathway in endothelial cells results in decreased proliferation and migration, ultimately leading to suppression of angiogenesis. In this study, we knocked-down the expression of seven established or candidate modulators of IFN-α response in endothelial cells to reconstruct a gene regulatory network and to investigate the antiangiogenic activity of IFN-α. This genetic perturbation approach, along with the analysis of interferon-induced gene expression dynamics, highlighted a complex and highly interconnected network, in which the angiostatic chemokine C-X-C Motif Chemokine Ligand 10 (CXCL10) was a central node targeted by multiple modulators. IFN-α-induced secretion of CXCL10 protein by endothelial cells was blunted by the silencing of Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 1 (STAT1) and of Interferon Regulatory Factor 1 (IRF1) and it was exacerbated by the silencing of Ubiquitin Specific Peptidase 18 (USP18). In vitro sprouting assay, which mimics in vivo angiogenesis, confirmed STAT1 as a positive modulator and USP18 as a negative modulator of IFN-α-mediated sprouting suppression. Our data reveal an unprecedented physiological regulation of angiogenesis in endothelial cells through a tonic IFN-α signaling, whose enhancement could represent a viable strategy to suppress tumor neoangiogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3977-3986
Number of pages10
JournalComputational and Structural Biotechnology Journal
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2 2020


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