The receptor activator of nuclear factor κΒ ligand receptor leucine-rich repeat-containing G-protein-coupled receptor 4 contributes to parathyroid hormone-induced vascular calcification

Natalia Carrillo-López, Laura Martínez-Arias, Cristina Alonso-Montes, Beatriz Martín-Carro, Julia Martín-Vírgala, Marta Ruiz-Ortega, José Luis Fernández-Martín, Adriana S Dusso, Minerva Rodriguez-García, Manuel Naves-Díaz, Jorge B Cannata-Andía, Sara Panizo
Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation 2020 December 26

BACKGROUND: In chronic kidney disease, serum phosphorus (P) elevations stimulate parathyroid hormone (PTH) production, causing severe alterations in the bone-vasculature axis. PTH is the main regulator of the receptor activator of nuclear factor κB (RANK)/RANK ligand (RANKL)/osteoprotegerin (OPG) system, which is essential for bone maintenance and also plays an important role in vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) calcification. The discovery of a new RANKL receptor, leucine-rich repeat-containing G-protein-coupled receptor 4 (LGR4), which is important for osteoblast differentiation but with an unknown role in vascular calcification (VC), led us to examine the contribution of LGR4 in high P/high PTH-driven VC.

METHODS: In vivo studies were conducted in subtotally nephrectomized rats fed a normal or high P diet, with and without parathyroidectomy (PTX). PTX rats were supplemented with PTH(1-34) to achieve physiological serum PTH levels. In vitro studies were performed in rat aortic VSMCs cultured in control medium, calcifying medium (CM) or CM plus 10-7 versus 10-9 M PTH.

RESULTS: Rats fed a high P diet had a significantly increased aortic calcium (Ca) content. Similarly, Ca deposition was higher in VSMCs exposed to CM. Both conditions were associated with increased RANKL and LGR4 and decreased OPG aorta expression and were exacerbated by high PTH. Silencing of LGR4 or parathyroid hormone receptor 1 (PTH1R) attenuated the high PTH-driven increases in Ca deposition. Furthermore, PTH1R silencing and pharmacological inhibition of protein kinase A (PKA), but not protein kinase C, prevented the increases in RANKL and LGR4 and decreased OPG. Treatment with PKA agonist corroborated that LGR4 regulation is a PTH/PKA-driven process.

CONCLUSIONS: High PTH increases LGR4 and RANKL and decreases OPG expression in the aorta, thereby favouring VC. The hormone's direct pro-calcifying actions involve PTH1R binding and PKA activation.

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