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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2011 Apr 1;407(1):103-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2011.02.117. Epub 2011 Mar 1.

Crystallizing nanoparticles derived from vascular smooth muscle cells contain the calcification inhibitor osteoprotegerin.

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Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Addenbrooke's Hospital, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.


Osteoprotegerin (OPG), a member of the TNF receptor superfamily, was initially found to modulate bone mass by blocking osteoclast maturation and function. Rodent models have also revealed a role for OPG as an inhibitor of vascular calcification. However, the precise mode of how OPG blocks mineralization is unclear. In this study, OPG was found in an in vitro assay to significantly inhibit calcification of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) induced by high calcium/phosphate (Ca/P) treatment (p=0.0063), although this effect was blunted at high OPG concentrations. By confocal microscopy, OPG was detected in VSMC in the Golgi, the same localization seen in osteoblasts, which express OPG in bone. Treatment of VSMC by minerals (Ca, P, or both) induced OPG mRNA expression as assessed by real-time quantitative PCR, and VSMC derived from atherosclerotic plaque material also exhibited higher OPG expression as compared to control cells (p<0.05). Furthermore, OPG was detected by Western blotting in matrix vesicles (MV), nanoparticles that are released by VSMC with the capacity to nucleate mineral. In atherosclerotic arteries, OPG colocalized immunohistochemically with annexin VI, a calcium-dependent membrane and phospholipid binding protein found in MV. Thus, the calcification inhibitor OPG is contained in crystallizing MV and has a biphasic effect on VSMC: physiologic concentrations inhibit calcification, whereas high concentrations commonly seen in patients with vascular disease have no effect. Like other calcification inhibitors, OPG may be specifically loaded into these nanoparticles to be deposited at remote sites, where it acts to inhibit calcification.

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