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Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2012 Oct 15;303(8):F1136-44. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00684.2011. Epub 2012 Aug 8.

In vascular smooth muscle cells paricalcitol prevents phosphate-induced Wnt/β-catenin activation.

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Unidad de Investigacion, IMIBIC, Hospital Reina Sofía, Avda. Menéndez Pidal s/n, Córdoba, Spain.


The present study investigates the differential effect of two vitamin D receptor agonists, calcitriol and paricalcitol, on human aortic smooth muscle cells calcification in vitro. Human vascular smooth muscle cells were incubated in a high phosphate (HP) medium alone or supplemented with either calcitriol 10(-8)M (HP + CTR) or paricalcitol 3·10(-8) M (HP + PC). HP medium induced calcification, which was associated with the upregulation of mRNA expression of osteogenic factors such as bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2), Runx2/Cbfa1, Msx2, and osteocalcin. In these cells, activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling was evidenced by the translocation of β-catenin into the nucleus and the increase in the expression of direct target genes as cyclin D1, axin 2, and VCAN/versican. Addition of calcitriol to HP medium (HP + CTR) further increased calcification and also enhanced the expression of osteogenic factors together with a significant elevation of nuclear β-catenin levels and the expression of cyclin D1, axin 2, and VCAN. By contrast, the addition of paricalcitol (HP + PC) not only reduced calcification but also downregulated the expression of BMP2 and other osteoblastic phenotype markers as well as the levels of nuclear β-catenin and the expression of its target genes. The role of Wnt/β-catenin on phosphate- and calcitriol-induced calcification was further demonstrated by the inhibition of calcification after addition of Dickkopf-related protein 1 (DKK-1), a specific natural antagonist of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. In conclusion, the differential effect of calcitriol and paricalcitol on vascular calcification appears to be mediated by a distinct regulation of the BMP and Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathways.

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