Atherosclerosis has become a worldwide medical burden. Our previous studies have shown that artemisinin (ART) had the capability to reduce atherosclerosis. Emerging evidence indicates that long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are involved in the development of atherosclerosis. However, whether lncRNAs might participate in the mechanism through which artemisinin mitigates atherosclerosis has not been reported.

Material and methods:
Eight-week-old apolipoprotein E deficient (APOE–/–) mice were divided into two groups, one of which was treated with artemisinin. Red oil O staining was used to measure the sizes of the atherosclerotic lesions. We conducted deep sequencing to investigate lncRNA profiles in the aorta tissue in high-fat diet fed APOE knockdown mice with and without artemisinin treatment. CeRNA network, Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) and Gene Ontology (GO) analyses were performed through bioinformatics analysis. RT-PCR was used to validate the differentially expressed lncRNAs.

A total of 102 lncRNAs and 4,630 mRNAs were differentially expressed (p < 0.05) between the artemisinin treatment group and atherosclerosis model group. KEGG and GO analyses indicated that the categories metabolic process, specific amino acid degradation and PI3K-Akt signaling pathway are involved in the effects of artemisinin treatment in atherosclerosis (q < 0.05). LncRNA ENSMUST00000099676.4, ENSMUST00000143673.1, ENSMUST00000070085.5 and ENSMUST00000224554 might be engaged in the treatment mechanism through which artemisinin alleviates atherosclerosis.

These findings indicated the possible mechanism and therapeutic role of lncRNAs in artemisinin treatment of atherosclerosis and provided a theoretical basis for the future application of artemisinin in patients with atherosclerosis.

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