Reversibility of calcitriol-induced medial artery calcification in rats with intact renal function

J Bone Miner Res. 2006 Mar;21(3):484-90. doi: 10.1359/JBMR.051211. Epub 2005 Dec 19.


VC is an important clinical entity; however, very little information is available on its resolution. Induction and regression of calcitriol-induced VC was studied in 47 rats. After calcitriol withdrawal, there was a relatively rapid regression of VC mediated by an active cellular process.

Introduction: Vascular calcifications (VCs) represent an important risk factor for cardiovascular death. Although VCs are prevalent in relevant diseases (e.g., chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis, diabetes), the reversibility of extraskeletal calcifications is an unresolved issue. This study was conducted to investigate (1) the in vivo effect of calcitriol on VC and (2) whether calcitriol-induced VC would regress after suppression of calcitriol treatment.

Materials and methods: The calcifying effect of calcitriol was studied in four groups of rats (n = 8) that received calcitriol (1 mug/kg, IP) for 2, 4, 6, and 8 days. The reversibility of VC was studied in three additional groups (n = 5) treated with 1 mug/kg of calcitriol for 8 days that were subsequently killed 1, 2, and 9 weeks after the last calcitriol dose. Aortic VC was assessed by histology and by quantification of aortic calcium and phosphorus content. The aortic wall was studied by histology and immunohistochemistry. Statistical analysis was performed by ANOVA and t-tests.

Results: Calcitriol administration resulted in a time-dependent induction of VC, with aortic calcium and phosphorus being significantly increased at 6 and 8 days. Treatment with calcitriol for 8 days resulted in massive medial calcification of the aorta with a 10- to 30-fold increase in the aortic Ca and P content. After suppressing calcitriol administration, a progressive decrease in von Kossa staining and aortic Ca (from 32.8 +/- 2.5 to 9.3 +/- 1.8 mg/g of tissue, p < 0.001) and P (from 11.9 +/- 1.2 to 2.7 +/- 1.8 mg/g of tissue, p = 0.001) content was evidenced. Histology of the aortic wall showed monocytes adhered to the aortic endothelium and macrophages involved in the reabsorption of calcium deposits.

Conclusions: Our results show that calcitriol treatment induces time-dependent VC. After calcitriol withdrawal, VC regress rapidly with aortic calcium and phosphorus decreasing by 75% in the course of 9 weeks. An active cellular process seems to be involved in regression of VC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aorta / drug effects*
  • Aorta / metabolism
  • Aorta / pathology*
  • Aortic Diseases / chemically induced
  • Aortic Diseases / metabolism
  • Aortic Diseases / pathology*
  • Calcinosis / chemically induced
  • Calcinosis / metabolism
  • Calcinosis / pathology*
  • Calcitriol / toxicity*
  • Kidney / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Calcitriol