Kruppel-like factor 4 contributes to high phosphate-induced phenotypic switching of vascular smooth muscle cells into osteogenic cells

Tadashi Yoshida, Maho Yamashita, Matsuhiko Hayashi
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2012 July 27, 287 (31): 25706-14
Hyperphosphatemia in chronic kidney disease is highly associated with vascular calcification. Previous studies have shown that high phosphate-induced phenotypic switching of vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) into osteogenic cells plays an important role in the calcification process. In the present study, we determined whether Krüppel-like factor 4 (Klf4) and phosphorylated Elk-1, transcriptional repressors of SMC differentiation marker genes activated by intimal atherogenic stimuli, contributed to this process. Rat aortic SMCs were cultured in the medium with normal (0.9 mmol/liter) or high (4.5 mmol/liter) phosphate concentration. Results showed that high phosphate concentration induced SMC calcification. Moreover, high phosphate decreased expression of SMC differentiation marker genes including smooth muscle α-actin and SM22α, whereas it increased expression of osteogenic genes, such as Runx2 and osteopontin. High phosphate also induced Klf4 expression, although it did not phosphorylate Elk-1. In response to high phosphate, Klf4 selectively bound to the promoter regions of SMC differentiation marker genes. Of importance, siRNA-mediated knockdown of Klf4 blunted high phosphate-induced suppression of SMC differentiation marker genes, as well as increases in expression of osteogenic genes and calcium deposition. Klf4 was also induced markedly in the calcified aorta of adenine-induced uremic rats. Results provide novel evidence that Klf4 mediates high phosphate-induced conversion of SMCs into osteogenic cells.

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