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J Biol Chem. 1998 Mar 27;273(13):7547-53.

cAMP stimulates osteoblast-like differentiation of calcifying vascular cells. Potential signaling pathway for vascular calcification.

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Division of Cardiology, Departments of Medicine and Physiology, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California 90095-1679, USA.


The role of the cAMP signaling pathway in vascular calcification was investigated using calcifying vascular cells (CVC) derived from primary aortic medial cell cultures. We previously showed that CVC have fibroblastic morphology and express several osteoblastic differentiation markers. After confluency, they aggregate into cellular condensations, which later mature into nodules where mineralization is localized. Here, we investigated the effects of cAMP on CVC differentiation because it plays a role in both osteoblastic differentiation and vascular disease. Dibutyryl-cAMP or forskolin treatment of CVC for 3 days induced osteoblast-like "cuboidal" morphology, inhibited proliferation, and enhanced alkaline phosphatase activity, all early markers of osteoblastic differentiation. Isobutylmethylxanthine and cholera toxin had the same effects. Treatment of CVC with pertussis toxin, however, did not induce the morphological change or increase alkaline phosphatase activity, although it inhibited CVC proliferation to a similar extent. cAMP also increased type I procollagen production and gene expression of matrix gamma-carboxyglutamic acid protein, recently shown to play a role in in vivo vascular calcification. cAMP inhibited the expression of osteopontin but did not affect the expression of osteocalcin and core binding factor. Prolonged cAMP treatment enhanced matrix calcium-mineral incorporation but inhibited the condensations resulting in diffuse mineralization throughout the monolayer of cells. Treatment of CVC with a protein kinase A-specific inhibitor, KT5720, inhibited alkaline phosphatase activity and mineralization during spontaneous CVC differentiation. These results suggest that the cAMP pathway promotes in vitro vascular calcification by enhancing osteoblast-like differentiation of CVC.

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