Activation of AKT by O-linked N-acetylglucosamine induces vascular calcification in diabetes mellitus

Jack M Heath, Yong Sun, Kaiyu Yuan, Wayne E Bradley, Silvio Litovsky, Louis J Dell'Italia, John C Chatham, Hui Wu, Yabing Chen
Circulation Research 2014 March 28, 114 (7): 1094-102

RATIONALE: Vascular calcification is a serious cardiovascular complication that contributes to the increased morbidity and mortality of patients with diabetes mellitus. Hyperglycemia, a hallmark of diabetes mellitus, is associated with increased vascular calcification and increased modification of proteins by O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAcylation).

OBJECTIVE: We sought to determine the role of protein O-GlcNAcylation in regulating vascular calcification and the underlying mechanisms.

METHODS AND RESULTS: Low-dose streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice exhibited increased aortic O-GlcNAcylation and vascular calcification, which was also associated with impaired aortic compliance in mice. Elevation of O-GlcNAcylation by administration of Thiamet-G, a potent inhibitor for O-GlcNAcase that removes O-GlcNAcylation, further accelerated vascular calcification and worsened aortic compliance of diabetic mice in vivo. Increased O-GlcNAcylation, either by Thiamet-G or O-GlcNAcase knockdown, promoted calcification of primary mouse vascular smooth muscle cells. Increased O-GlcNAcylation in diabetic arteries or in the O-GlcNAcase knockdown vascular smooth muscle cell upregulated expression of the osteogenic transcription factor Runx2 and enhanced activation of AKT. O-GlcNAcylation of AKT at two new sites, T430 and T479, promoted AKT phosphorylation, which in turn enhanced vascular smooth muscle cell calcification. Site-directed mutation of AKT at T430 and T479 decreased O-GlcNAcylation, inhibited phosphorylation of AKT at S473 and binding of mammalian target of rapamycin complex 2 to AKT, and subsequently blocked Runx2 transactivity and vascular smooth muscle cell calcification.

CONCLUSIONS: O-GlcNAcylation of AKT at 2 new sites enhanced AKT phosphorylation and activation, thus promoting vascular calcification. Our studies have identified a novel causative effect of O-GlcNAcylation in regulating vascular calcification in diabetes mellitus and uncovered a key molecular mechanism underlying O-GlcNAcylation-mediated activation of AKT.

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