• atherosclerosis;
  • plaque calcification;
  • osteopontin;
  • inorganic pyrophosphate


Ecto-nucleotide pyrophosphatase/phosphodiesterase 1 (NPP1) generates inorganic pyrophosphate (PPi), a physiologic inhibitor of hydroxyapatite deposition. In a previous study, we found NPP1 expression to be inversely correlated with the degree of atherosclerotic plaque calcification. Moreover, function-impairing mutations of ENPP1, the gene encoding for NPP1, are associated with severe, artery tunica media calcification and myointimal hyperplasia with infantile onset in human beings. NPP1 and PPi have the potential to modulate atherogenesis by regulating arterial smooth muscle cell (SMC) differentiation and function, including increase of pro-atherogenic osteopontin (OPN) expression. Hence, this study tested the hypothesis that NPP1 deficiency modulates both atherogenesis and atherosclerotic intimal plaque calcification. Npp1/ApoE double deficient mice were generated by crossing mice bearing the ttw allele of Enpp1 (that encodes a truncation mutation) with ApoE null mice and fed with high-fat/high-cholesterol atherogenic diet. Atherosclerotic lesion area and calcification were examined at 13, 18, 23 and 28 weeks of age. The aortic SMCs isolated from both ttw/ttw ApoE−/− and ttw/+ ApoE−/− mice demonstrated decreased Opn expression. The 28-week-old ttw/ttw ApoE−/− and ttw/+ ApoE−/− had significantly smaller atherosclerotic lesions compared with wild-type congenic ApoE−/− mice. Only ttw/ttw but not ttw/+ mice developed artery media calcification. Furthermore in ttw/+ mice, there was a tendency towards increased plaque calcification compared to ApoE−/− mice without Npp1 deficiency. We conclude that Npp1 promotes atherosclerosis, potentially mediated by Opn expression in ApoE knockout mice.