Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


Biomedical Sciences

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Chuanfu Li

Committee Members

David L. Williams, Krishna Singh, Race Kao, Gary Wright, John Kalbfleisch, Robert Wondergem


Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. Toll-like receptor (TLR)-mediated pathways have been demonstrated to play a role in myocardial ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury. We and others have shown that PI3K/Akt signaling is involved in regulating cellular survival and protecting the myocardium from I/R induced injury. In this dissertation, we provide compelling evidence that miR-125b serves to “fine tune” TLR mediated NF-kB responses by repressing TNF-a and TRAF6 expression. We constructed lentiviral expressing miR-125b, delivered it into the myocardium. The data showed that delivery of lentivirus expressing miR-125b significantly reduces myocardial infarct size and improves cardiac function in I/R hearts. Mechanistic studies demonstrated that miR-125b negatively regulates TLR mediated NF-kB activation pathway by repressing TNF-a and TRAF6 expression in the myocardium.

We also observed that transfection of the myocardium with lentivirus expressing miR-214 markedly attenuates I/R induced myocardial infarct size and cardiac dysfunction. We demonstrated that miR-214 activates PI3K/Akt signaling by targeting PTEN expression in the myocardium.

We also investigated the role of TLR3 in neonatal heart repair and regeneration following myocardial infarction (MI). Wild type (WT) neonatal mice showed fully cardiac functional recovery and small infarct size, while TLR3 deficient mice exhibited impaired cardiac functional recovery and large infarct area after MI. Poly (I:C), a TLR3 ligand, administration significantly enhances glycolysis, YAP1 activation and the proliferation of WT neonatal cardiomyocytes. 2-deoxyglucose (2-DG), a glycolysis inhibitor treatment abolished cardiac functional recovery and YAP1 activation in neonatal mice after MI. In vitro either inhibition of glycolysis by 2-DG or inhibition of YAP1 activation prevents Poly (I:C) induced YAP1 activation and neonatal cardiomyocyte proliferation. Importantly, YAP1 activation increases miR-152 expression, leading to cardiomyocyte proliferation through suppression P27kip1 and DNMT1 expression.

We conclude that microRNAs play an important role in TLR modulation induced protection against myocardial I/R injury by increasing the activation of PI3K/Akt signaling pathway, decreasing TLR/NF-kB mediated inflammatory response, and suppressing activation of apoptotic signaling following myocardial I/R injury.

In addition, TLR3 is an essential for neonatal heart repair and regeneration after myocardial infarction. TLR3 modulation could be a novel strategy for heart regeneration and repair.

Document Type

Dissertation - Withheld


Copyright by the authors.

Available for download on Thursday, October 28, 2021