JOURNAL ARTICLE

Smooth muscle cell-specific runx2 deficiency inhibits vascular calcification

Yong Sun, Chang Hyun Byon, Kaiyu Yuan, Jianfeng Chen, Xia Mao, Jack M Heath, Amjad Javed, Kui Zhang, Peter G Anderson, Yabing Chen
Circulation Research 2012 August 17, 111 (5): 543-52
22773442

RATIONALE: Vascular calcification is a hallmark of atherosclerosis, a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. We have previously reported that the osteogenic transcription factor Runx2 is an essential and sufficient regulator of calcification of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) in vitro.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the contribution of osteogenic differentiation of VSMC to the pathogenesis of vascular calcification and the function of VSMC-derived Runx2 in regulating calcification in vivo.

METHODS AND RESULTS: SMC-specific Runx2-deficient mice, generated by breeding SM22α-Cre mice with the Runx2 exon 8 floxed mice, exhibited normal aortic gross anatomy and expression levels of SMC-specific marker genes. Runx2 deficiency did not affect basal SMC markers, but inhibited oxidative stress-reduced expression of SMC markers. High-fat-diet-induced vascular calcification in vivo was markedly inhibited in the Runx2-deficient mice in comparison with their control littermates. Runx2 deficiency inhibited the expression of receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand, which was accompanied by decreased macrophage infiltration and formation of osteoclast-like cells in the calcified lesions. Coculture of VSMC with bone marrow-derived macrophages demonstrated that the Runx2-deficient VSMC failed to promote differentiation of macrophages into osteoclast-like cells.

CONCLUSIONS: These data have determined the importance of osteogenic differentiation of VSMC in the pathogenesis of vascular calcification in mice and defined the functional role of SMC-derived Runx2 in regulating vascular calcification and promoting infiltration of macrophages into the calcified lesion to form osteoclast-like cells. Our studies suggest that the development of vascular calcification is coupled with the formation of osteoclast-like cells, paralleling the bone remodeling process.

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