Targeting endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition: the protective role of hydroxytyrosol sulfate metabolite

  • Erika Terzuoli
  • Ginevra Nannelli
  • Antonio Giachetti
  • Lucia Morbidelli
  • Marina ZicheEmail author
  • Sandra DonniniEmail author
Original Contribution



Endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndMT) plays an important role in pathogenesis of a number of inflammatory diseases. Hydroxytyrosol (HT) and, particularly, its major plasma metabolite HT-3O sulfate (HT-3Os) are known olive oil antioxidant and anti-inflammatory polyphenols which exert benefits against vascular diseases by improving endothelial function. However, to date the HT-3Os role in EndMT is not well known.


To investigate the HT-3Os effects on EndMT in the inflamed endothelium, we used an in vitro model of endothelial dysfunction, challenging endothelial cells (EC), human umbilical EC (HUVEC) and human retinal EC (HREC) with Interleukin-1β (IL-1β), an inflammatory agent. HREC were used as a specific model to investigate HT-3Os effects on vascular retinal diseases.


We found that IL-1β treatment-induced EndMT phenotype in both cell models, also changing cell morphology. HT-3Os protected EC against IL-1β effects, recovering cell morphology and phenotype. Mechanistically, HT-3Os targeting fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 FGFR1 expression and let-7 miRNA, controlled transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) signalling in EC, downregulating transcription factors expression (SNAI1 and ZEB2) and gene expression of late EndMT markers (FN1, VIM, NOTCH3, CNN1, MMP2 and MMP9).


These results demonstrate that HT-3Os blunts pathological EndMT in inflamed EC, maintaining high let-7 miRNA expression and preventing activation of TGF-β signalling.


Hydroxytyrosol-3O sulfate Endothelial mesenchymal transition Endothelial cells TGF-β FGFR1 Let-7 



This work was supported by MIUR (Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca)-PRIN (Progetti di Rilevante Interesse Nazionale) (20152HKF3Z) to M.Z.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical standards

The manuscript does not contain clinical studies or patient data.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Life SciencesUniversity of SienaSienaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Medicine, Surgery and NeuroscienceUniversity of SienaSienaItaly

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