Background: Cardiovascular disease including vascular calcification (VC) remains the leading cause of death in patients suffering from chronic kidney disease (CKD). The process of VC seems likely to be a tightly regulated process where vascular smooth muscle cells are playing a key role rather than just a mere passive precipitation of calcium phosphate. Characterisation of the chemical and crystalline structure of VC was mainly led in patients or animal models with CKD. Likewise, Mg2+ was found to be protective in living cells although a potential role for Mg2+ could not be excluded on crystal formation and precipitation. In this study, the crystal formation and the role of Mg2+ were investigated in an in vitro model of primary human aortic vascular smooth muscle cells (HAVSMC) with physical techniques.
Methodology/principal findings: In HAVSMC incubated with increased Ca x Pi medium, only calcium phosphate apatite crystals (CPA) were detected by Micro-Fourier Transform InfraRed spectroscopy (µFTIR) and Field Effect Scanning Electron Microscope (FE-SEM) and Energy Dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDX) at the cell layer level. Supplementation with Mg2+ did not alter the crystal composition or structure. The crystal deposition was preferentially positioned near or directly on cells as pictured by FE-SEM observations and EDX measurements. Large µFTIR maps revealed spots of CPA crystals that were associated to the cellular layout. This qualitative analysis suggests a potential beneficial effect of Mg2+ at 5 mM in noticeably reducing the number and intensities of CPA µFTIR spots.
Conclusions/significance: For the first time in a model of HAVSMC, induced calcification led to the formation of the sole CPA crystals. Our data seems to exclude a physicochemical role of Mg2+ in altering the CPA crystal growth, composition or structure. Furthermore, Mg2+ beneficial role in attenuating VC should be linked to an active cellular role.