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Sci Rep. 2019 Jul 17;9(1):10366. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-46824-2.

Activation of KEAP1/NRF2/P62 signaling alleviates high phosphate-induced calcification of vascular smooth muscle cells by suppressing reactive oxygen species production.

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Department of Pathology, Wakayama Medical University School of Medicine, Wakayama, Japan.
Department of Pathology, Wakayama Medical University School of Medicine, Wakayama, Japan.


Vascular calcification is a complication of diseases and conditions such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and aging. Previous studies have demonstrated that high concentrations of inorganic phosphate (Pi) can induce oxidative stress and vascular smooth muscle cell calcification. KEAP1 (Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1)/NF-E2-related factor 2 (NRF2) signaling has been shown to play important roles in protecting cells from oxidative stress. The current study aims to investigate the possible involvement of the KEAP1/NRF2/P62 -mediated antioxidant pathway in vascular calcification induced by high Pi levels. Exposure of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) to high Pi concentrations promoted the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the nuclear translocation of NRF2, along with an increase in P62 levels and a decrease in KEAP1 levels. A classic NRF2 activator, tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ), significantly decreased ROS levels and calcium deposition in VSMCs by promoting the nuclear translocation of NRF2 and upregulating P62 and KEAP1 expression. In contrast, silencing NRF2 and P62 with siRNAs increased the levels of ROS and calcium deposition in VSMCs. In conclusion, VSMC calcification can be alleviated by the activation of the KEAP1/NRF2/P62 antioxidative pathway, which could have a protective role when it is exogenously activated by tBHQ.

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