Objective: Vascular and valvular calcifications are pathological processes regulated by resident cells, and depending on a complex interplay between calcification promoters and inhibitors, resembling skeletal metabolism. Here, we study the role of the vitamin K-dependent Gla-rich protein (GRP) in vascular and valvular calcification processes.
Approach and results: Immunohistochemistry and quantitative polymerase chain reaction showed that GRP expression and accumulation are upregulated with calcification simultaneously with osteocalcin and matrix Gla protein (MGP). Using conformation-specific antibodies, both γ-carboxylated GRP and undercarboxylated GRP species were found accumulated at the sites of mineral deposits, whereas undercarboxylated GRP was predominant in calcified aortic valve disease valvular interstitial cells. Mineral-bound GRP, MGP, and fetuin-A were identified by mass spectrometry. Using an ex vivo model of vascular calcification, γ-carboxylated GRP but not undercarboxylated GRP was shown to inhibit calcification and osteochondrogenic differentiation through α-smooth muscle actin upregulation and osteopontin downregulation. Immunoprecipitation assays showed that GRP is part of an MGP-fetuin-A complex at the sites of valvular calcification. Moreover, extracellular vesicles released from normal vascular smooth muscle cells are loaded with GRP, MGP, and fetuin-A, whereas under calcifying conditions, released extracellular vesicles show increased calcium loading and GRP and MGP depletion.
Conclusions: GRP is an inhibitor of vascular and valvular calcification involved in calcium homeostasis. Its function might be associated with prevention of calcium-induced signaling pathways and direct mineral binding to inhibit crystal formation/maturation. Our data show that GRP is a new player in mineralization competence of extracellular vesicles possibly associated with the fetuin-A-MGP calcification inhibitory system. GRP activity was found to be dependent on its γ-carboxylation status, with potential clinical relevance.
Keywords: aortic valve, calcification of; gene expression; multivesicular bodies; vascular calcification.
© 2014 American Heart Association, Inc.