Rationale: The expression of osteocalcin is augmented in human atherosclerotic lesions. How osteocalcin triggers vascular pathogenesis and remodeling is unclear.
Objective: To investigate whether osteocalcin promotes transformation of adventitial fibroblast to myofibroblasts and the molecular mechanism involved.
Methods and results: Immunohistochemistry indicated that osteocalcin was expressed in the neointima of renal arteries from diabetic patients. Western blotting and wound-healing assay showed that osteocalcin induced fibroblast transformation and migration, which were attenuated by blockers of the renin-angiotensin system and protein kinase Cδ (PKCδ), toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) neutralizing antibody, and antagonist and inhibitors of free radical production and cyclooxygenase-2. Small interfering RNA silencing of TLR4 and PKCδ abolished fibroblast transformation. Angiotensin II level in the conditioned medium from the osteocalcin-treated fibroblasts was found elevated using enzyme immunoassay. Culturing of fibroblasts in conditioned medium collected from differentiated osteoblasts promoted fibroblast transformation. The expression of fibronectin, TLR4, and cyclooxygenase-2 is augmented in human mesenteric arteries after 5-day in vitro exposure to osteocalcin.
Conclusions: Osteocalcin transforms adventitial fibroblasts to myofibroblasts through stimulating angiotensin II release and subsequent activation of PKCδ/TLR4/reactive oxygen species/cyclooxygenase-2 signaling cascade. This study reveals that the skeletal hormone osteocalcin cross-talks with vascular system and contributes to vascular remodeling.