Arterial microcalcification in atherosclerotic patients with and without chronic kidney disease: a comparative high-resolution scanning X-ray diffraction analysis

Calcif Tissue Int. 2012 Jun;90(6):465-72. doi: 10.1007/s00223-012-9594-5. Epub 2012 Apr 5.


Vascular calcification, albeit heterogeneous in terms of biological and physicochemical properties, has been associated with ageing, lifestyle, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease (CKD). It is unknown whether or not moderately impaired renal function (CKD stages 2-4) affects the physiochemical composition and/or the formation of magnesium-containing tricalcium phosphate ([Ca,Mg](3)[PO(4)](2), whitlockite) in arterial microcalcification. Therefore, a high-resolution scanning X-ray diffraction analysis (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, Grenoble, France) utilizing histological sections of paraffin-embedded arterial specimens derived from atherosclerotic patients with normal renal function (n = 15) and CKD (stages 2-4, n = 13) was performed. This approach allowed us to spatially assess the contribution of calcium phosphate (apatite) and whitlockite to arterial microcalcification. Per group, the number of samples (13 vs. 12) with sufficient signal intensity and total lengths of regions (201 vs. 232 μm) giving rise to diffractograms ("informative regions") were comparable. Summarizing all informative regions per group into one composite sample revealed calcium phosphate/apatite as the leading mineral phase in CKD patients, whereas in patients with normal renal function the relative contribution of whitlockite and calcium phosphate/apatite was on the same order of magnitude (CKD, calcium phosphate/apatite 157 μm, whitlockite 38.7 μm; non-CKD, calcium phosphate/apatite 79.0 μm, whitlockite 94.1 μm; each p < 0.05). Our results, although based on a limited number of samples, indicate that chronic impairment of renal function affects local magnesium homeostasis and thus contributes to the physicochemical composition of microcalcification in atherosclerotic patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Calcium Phosphates / metabolism
  • Carotid Arteries / pathology*
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / etiology*
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Spectrometry, X-Ray Emission
  • Vascular Calcification / etiology*
  • Vascular Calcification / pathology
  • X-Ray Diffraction


  • Calcium Phosphates
  • tricalcium phosphate