Introduction: The transformation of smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) in the vessel wall to osteoblast like cells is known to precede arterial calcification which may cause bleeding complications. The vitamin K-dependent protein MGP has been identified as an inhibitor of this process by binding BMP-2, a growth factor known to trigger the transformation. In this study, we determined if the vitamin K-dependent Gla region in MGP by itself can inhibit the growth factor activity of BMP-2 and if menaquinone-4 (MK4) regulates gene expression in VSMCs.
Materials and methods: A synthetic gamma-carboxyglutamic acid (Gla) containing peptide covering the Gla region in human MGP was used to test its ability to inhibit BMP-2 induced transformation of mouse pro-myoblast C2C12 cells into osteoblasts. MK4 was tested by microarray analysis as a gene regulatory molecule in VSMCs.
Results and conclusions: The results show that the Gla - but not the Glu-peptide inhibited the transformation which provide evidence that the Gla region in MGP is directly involved in the BMP-2/MGP interaction and emphasizes the importance of the vitamin K-dependent modification of MGP. From the data obtained from the microarray analysis, we focused on two quantitatively altered cDNAs representing proteins known to be associated with vessel wall calcification. DT-diaphorase of the vitamin K-cycle, showed increased gene expression with a 4.8-fold higher specific activity in MK4 treated cells. Osteoprotegrin gene expression was down regulated and osteoprotegrin protein secretion from the MK4 treated cells was lowered to 1.8-fold. These findings suggest that MK4 acts as an anti-calcification component in the vessel wall.