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Am J Pathol. 2002 Dec;161(6):2035-46.

Osteopontin inhibits mineral deposition and promotes regression of ectopic calcification.

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Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Ectopic calcification, the abnormal calcification of soft tissues, can have severe clinical consequences especially when localized to vital organs such as heart valves, arteries, and kidneys. Recent observations suggest that ectopic calcification, like bone biomineralization, is an actively regulated process. These observations have led a search for molecular determinants of ectopic calcification. A candidate molecule is osteopontin (OPN), a secreted phosphoprotein invariantly associated with both normal and pathological mineral deposits. In the present study, OPN was found to be a natural inhibitor of ectopic calcification in vivo. Glutaraldehyde-fixed aortic valve leaflets showed accelerated and fourfold to fivefold greater calcification after subcutaneous implantation into OPN-null mice compared to wild-type mice. In vitro and in vivo studies suggest that OPN not only inhibits mineral deposition but also actively promotes its dissolution by physically blocking hydroxyapatite crystal growth and inducing expression of carbonic anhydrase II in monocytic cells and promoting acidification of the extracellular milieu. These findings suggest a novel mechanism of OPN action and potential therapeutic approach to the treatment of ectopic calcification.

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