Pathophysiology of vascular calcification in chronic kidney disease

Sharon M Moe, Neal X Chen
Circulation Research 2004 September 17, 95 (6): 560-7
Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) on dialysis have 2- to 5-fold more coronary artery calcification than age-matched individuals with angiographically proven coronary artery disease. In addition to increased traditional risk factors, CKD patients also have a number of nontraditional cardiovascular risk factors that may play a prominent role in the pathogenesis of arterial calcification, including duration of dialysis and disorders of mineral metabolism. In histological specimens from the inferior epigastric artery of dialysis patients, we have found expression of the osteoblast differentiation factor core binding factor alpha-1 (Cbfa1) and several bone-associated proteins (osteopontin, bone sialoprotein, alkaline phosphatase, type I collagen) in both the intima and medial layers when calcification was present. In cultured vascular smooth muscle cells, the addition of pooled serum from dialysis patients (versus normal healthy controls) accelerated mineralization and increased expression of Cbfa1, osteopontin, and alkaline phosphatase to a similar magnitude as does beta-glycerophosphate alone. However, a lack of inhibitors of calcification may also be important. Dialysis patients with low levels of serum fetuin-A, a circulating inhibitor of mineralization, have increased coronary artery calcification and fetuin-A can inhibit mineralization of vascular smooth muscle cells in vitro. These data support that elevated levels of phosphorus and/or other potential uremic toxins may play an important role by transforming vascular smooth muscle cells into osteoblast-like cells, which can produce a matrix of bone collagen and noncollagenous proteins. This nidus can then mineralize if the balance of pro-mineralizing factors outweighs inhibitory factors.

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