Arterial calcification: a tumor necrosis factor-alpha mediated vascular Wnt-opathy

Transl Res. 2008 May;151(5):233-9. doi: 10.1016/j.trsl.2007.12.005. Epub 2008 Jan 22.


Arterial calcification is common in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM), chronic kidney disease (CKD), and other chronic inflammatory disorders. Arterial calcification is associated with significant morbidity and increased early mortality. The molecular signature of vascular calcification in diabetes is strikingly similar to that of CKD. Low-grade arterial inflammation is common to both conditions, and increased levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) have been reported in both DM and CKD. Recently, we described a novel TNF-alpha regulated Msx2-Wnt osteogenic program that regulates arterial calcification in an animal model of type 2 DM. TNF-alpha induces the osteogenic bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2), Msx2, Wnt3a, and Wnt7a mRNAs and leads to increased aortic calcium accumulation. Treatment with the TNF-alpha neutralizing antibody infliximab abrogates aortic BMP-2-Msx2-Wnt3a and Wnt7a signaling and attenuates aortic calcium accumulation significantly. Mice with vascular TNF-alpha augmented by the SM22-TNF-alpha transgene upregulate the aortic Msx2-Wnt3a/Wnt7a axis. Furthermore, SM22-TNF-alphaTg;TOPGAL mice exhibit greater beta-galactosidase reporter staining versus TOPGAL siblings in the aorta and coronaries, which indicates enhanced mural Wnt signaling in response to TNF-alpha. Thus, inflammatory TNF-alpha signals promote aortic osteogenic Msx2-Wnt programs in type 2 DM, and arterial calcification in this model is a TNF-alpha-driven Wnt-opathy. Having established the role of TNF-alpha in diabetic vascular calcification, an unmet need exists to evaluate the role of TNF-alpha and Msx2-Wnt signals in CKD-related calcification models. If validated in these models, then these findings will have significant therapeutic applications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 2
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / genetics
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / metabolism
  • Calcinosis / genetics
  • Calcinosis / metabolism
  • Calcinosis / pathology*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Microfilament Proteins / genetics
  • Microfilament Proteins / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle Proteins / genetics
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology
  • Vascular Diseases / genetics
  • Vascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Vascular Diseases / pathology*
  • Wnt Proteins / genetics
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism


  • BMP2 protein, human
  • Bmp2 protein, mouse
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 2
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Wnt Proteins
  • transgelin