Inhibition of bone morphogenetic protein signal transduction prevents the medial vascular calcification associated with matrix Gla protein deficiency

PLoS One. 2015 Jan 20;10(1):e0117098. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117098. eCollection 2015.


Objective: Matrix Gla protein (MGP) is reported to inhibit bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signal transduction. MGP deficiency is associated with medial calcification of the arterial wall, in a process that involves both osteogenic transdifferentiation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) and mesenchymal transition of endothelial cells (EndMT). In this study, we investigated the contribution of BMP signal transduction to the medial calcification that develops in MGP-deficient mice.

Approach and results: MGP-deficient mice (MGP(-/-)) were treated with one of two BMP signaling inhibitors, LDN-193189 or ALK3-Fc, beginning one day after birth. Aortic calcification was assessed in 28-day-old mice by measuring the uptake of a fluorescent bisphosphonate probe and by staining tissue sections with Alizarin red. Aortic calcification was 80% less in MGP(-/-) mice treated with LDN-193189 or ALK3-Fc compared with vehicle-treated control animals (P<0.001 for both). LDN-193189-treated MGP(-/-) mice survived longer than vehicle-treated MGP(-/-) mice. Levels of phosphorylated Smad1/5 and Id1 mRNA (markers of BMP signaling) did not differ in the aortas from MGP(-/-) and wild-type mice. Markers of EndMT and osteogenesis were increased in MGP(-/-) aortas, an effect that was prevented by LDN-193189. Calcification of isolated VSMCs was also inhibited by LDN-193189.

Conclusions: Inhibition of BMP signaling leads to reduced vascular calcification and improved survival in MGP(-/-) mice. The EndMT and osteogenic transdifferentiation associated with MGP deficiency is dependent upon BMP signaling. These results suggest that BMP signal transduction has critical roles in the development of vascular calcification in MGP-deficient mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / metabolism
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / genetics
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Matrix Gla Protein
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Pyrazoles / pharmacology
  • Pyrazoles / therapeutic use
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology
  • Pyrimidines / therapeutic use
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Vascular Calcification / drug therapy*
  • Vascular Calcification / genetics


  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • LDN 193189
  • Pyrazoles
  • Pyrimidines