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Atherosclerosis. 2015 Feb;238(2):220-30. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2014.12.011. Epub 2014 Dec 12.

The dark and bright side of atherosclerotic calcification.

Author information

1
Department of Clinical and Molecular Medicine, "La Sapienza" University, Via di Grottarossa, 1035-1039, 00189 Rome, Italy. Electronic address: giuseppe.pugliese@uniroma1.it.
2
Department of Clinical and Molecular Medicine, "La Sapienza" University, Via di Grottarossa, 1035-1039, 00189 Rome, Italy. Electronic address: carla.iacobini@virgilio.it.
3
Department of Clinical and Molecular Medicine, "La Sapienza" University, Via di Grottarossa, 1035-1039, 00189 Rome, Italy. Electronic address: claudia_b_f@yahoo.it.
4
Department of Clinical and Molecular Medicine, "La Sapienza" University, Via di Grottarossa, 1035-1039, 00189 Rome, Italy. Electronic address: meninistefano@uniroma1.it.

Abstract

Vascular calcification is an unfavorable event in the natural history of atherosclerosis that predicts cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. However, increasing evidence suggests that different calcification patterns are associated with different or even opposite histopathological and clinical features, reflecting the dual relationship between inflammation and calcification. In fact, initial calcium deposition in response to pro-inflammatory stimuli results in the formation of spotty or granular calcification ("microcalcification"), which induces further inflammation. This vicious cycle favors plaque rupture, unless an adaptive response prevails, with blunting of inflammation and survival of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). VSMCs promote fibrosis and also undergo osteogenic transdifferentiation, with formation of homogeneous or sheet-like calcification ("macrocalcification"), that stabilizes the plaque by serving as a barrier towards inflammation. Unfortunately, little is known about the molecular mechanisms regulating this adaptive response. The advanced glycation/lipoxidation endproducts (AGEs/ALEs) have been shown to promote vascular calcification and atherosclerosis. Recent evidence suggests that two AGE/ALE receptors, RAGE and galectin-3, modulate in divergent ways, not only inflammation, but also vascular osteogenesis, by favoring "microcalcification" and "macrocalcification", respectively. Galectin-3 seems essential for VSMC transdifferentiation into osteoblast-like cells via direct modulation of the WNT-β-catenin signaling, thus driving formation of "macrocalcification", whereas RAGE favors deposition of "microcalcification" by promoting and perpetuating inflammation and by counteracting the osteoblastogenic effect of galectin-3. Further studies are required to understand the molecular mechanisms regulating transition from "microcalcification" to "macrocalcification", thus allowing to design therapeutic strategies which favor this adaptive process, in order to limit the adverse effects of established atherosclerotic calcification.

KEYWORDS:

Advanced glycation/lipoxidation endproducts; Calcification; Inflammation; Osteogenic transdifferentiation; Vascular smooth muscle cells

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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