Replicative senescence of vascular smooth muscle cells enhances the calcification through initiating the osteoblastic transition

Ritsuko Nakano-Kurimoto, Koji Ikeda, Maki Uraoka, Yusuke Nakagawa, Kotaro Yutaka, Masahiro Koide, Tomosaburo Takahashi, Satoaki Matoba, Hiroyuki Yamada, Mitsuhiko Okigaki, Hiroaki Matsubara
American Journal of Physiology. Heart and Circulatory Physiology 2009, 297 (5): H1673-84
Medial artery calcification, which does not accompany lipid or cholesterol deposit, preferentially occurs in elderly population, but its underlying mechanisms remain unclear. In the present study, we investigated the potential role of senescent vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) in the formation of senescence-associated medial calcification. Replicative senescence was induced by the extended passages (until passages 11-13) in human primary VSMCs, and cells in early passage (passage 6) were used as control young cells. VSMC calcification was markedly enhanced in the senescent cells compared with that in the control young cells. We identified that genes highly expressed in osteoblasts, such as alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and type I collagen, were significantly upregulated in the senescent VSMCs, suggesting their osteoblastic transition during the senescence. Knockdown of either ALP or type I collagen significantly reduced the calcification in the senescent VSMCs. Of note, runt-related transcription factor-2 (RUNX-2), a core transcriptional factor that initiates the osteoblastic differentiation, was also upregulated in the senescent VSMCs. Knockdown of RUNX-2 significantly reduced the ALP expression and calcification in the senescent VSMCs, suggesting that RUNX-2 is involved in the senescence-mediated osteoblastic transition. Furthermore, immunohistochemistry of aorta from the klotho(-/-) aging mouse model demonstrated in vivo emergence of osteoblast-like cells expressing RUNX-2 exclusively in the calcified media. We also found that statin and Rho-kinase inhibitor effectively reduced the VSMC calcification by inhibiting P(i)-induced apoptosis and potentially enhancing matrix Gla protein expression in the senescent VSMCs. These findings strongly suggest an important role of senescent VSMCs in the pathophysiology of senescence-associated medial calcification, and the inhibition of osteoblastic transition could be a new therapeutic approach for the prevention of senescence-associated medial calcification.

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