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Keywords:

  • MATRIX GLA PROTEIN;
  • VASCULAR CALCIFICATION;
  • VASCULAR SMOOTH MUSCLE CELLS;
  • ELASTIN;
  • KEUTEL SYNDROME

ABSTRACT

Matrix gla protein (MGP) is a potent inhibitor of extracellular matrix (ECM) mineralization. MGP-deficiency in humans leads to Keutel syndrome, a rare genetic disease hallmarked by abnormal soft tissue calcification. MGP-deficient (Mgp–/–) mice show progressive deposition of hydroxyapatite minerals in the arterial walls and die within 2 months of age. The mechanism of antimineralization function of MGP is not fully understood. We examined the progression of vascular calcification and expression of several chondrogenic/osteogenic markers in the thoracic aortas of Mgp–/– mice at various ages. Although cells with chondrocyte-like morphology have been reported in the calcified aorta, our gene expression data indicate that chondrogenic/osteogenic markers are not upregulated in the arteries prior to the initiation of calcification. Interestingly, arterial calcification in Mgp–/– mice appears first in the elastic laminae. Considering the known mineral scaffolding function of elastin (ELN), a major elastic lamina protein, we hypothesize that elastin content in the laminae is a critical determinant for arterial calcification in Mgp–/– mice. To investigate this, we performed micro–computed tomography (µCT) and histological analyses of the aortas of Mgp–/–;Eln+/– mice and show that elastin haploinsufficiency significantly reduces arterial calcification in this strain. Our data suggest that MGP deficiency leads to alterations of vascular ECM that may in turn initiate arterial calcification. © 2014 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.