Inhibition of Phosphate-Induced Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Osteo-/Chondrogenic Signaling and Calcification by Bafilomycin A1 and Methylamine

Kidney Blood Press Res. 2015;40(5):490-9. doi: 10.1159/000368524. Epub 2015 Sep 30.


Background/aims: Excessive phosphate concentrations trigger vascular calcification, an active process promoted by osteoinduction of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) with increased expression and activity of transcription factor RUNX2 (Core-binding factor α1, CBFA1), alkaline phosphatase (ALPL), TGFß1, transcription factor NFAT5, and NFAT5-sensitive transcription factor SOX9. The osteoinductive signaling and vascular calcification of hyperphosphatemic klotho-hypomorphic mice could be reversed by treatment with NH4Cl, effects involving decrease of TGFß1 and inhibition of NFAT5-dependent osteoinductive signaling. Known effects of NH4Cl include alkalinization of acidic cellular compartments. The present study explored whether osteo-/chondrogenic signaling could be influenced by alkalinization of acidic cellular compartments following inhibition of the vacuolar H+ ATPase with bafilomycin A1 or following dissipation of the pH gradient across the membranes of acidic cellular compartments with methylamine.

Methods: Primary human aortic smooth muscle cells (HAoSMCs) were treated with high phosphate to trigger osteo-/chondrogenic signaling and calcification in the absence or presence of bafilomycin A1 or methylamine. Calcium content was determined using a QuantiChrom Calcium assay, ALP activity by a colorimetric assay and transcript levels by quantitative RT-PCR.

Results: High phosphate increased significantly the calcium deposition, CBFA1 and ALPL mRNA expression as well as alkaline phosphatase activity in HAoSMCs, all effects ameliorated by both, bafilomycin A1 and methylamine. High phosphate further significantly up-regulated the mRNA levels of TGFB1, NFAT5 and SOX9, effects significantly blunted by additional treatment with bafilomycin A1 or methylamine. Treatment of HAoSMCs with human TGFß1 protein or high phosphate up-regulated NFAT5, SOX9, CBFA1 and ALPL mRNA expression to similarly high levels which could not be further increased by combined treatment with high phosphate and TGFß1. Bafilomycin A1 failed to reverse the osteo-/chondrogenic signaling triggered by high phosphate together with TGFß1.

Conclusions: Inhibition of the vacuolar H+ ATPase or dissipation of the pH gradient across the membranes of acidic cellular compartments both disrupt osteo-/chondrogenic signaling and calcium deposition in VSMCs, observations supporting the hypothesis that vascular calcification requires acidic cellular compartments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Calcification, Physiologic / drug effects
  • Calcification, Physiologic / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chondrogenesis / drug effects
  • Chondrogenesis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Macrolides / metabolism*
  • Methylamines / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / drug effects
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Osteogenesis / drug effects
  • Osteogenesis / physiology*
  • Phosphates / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Phosphates / toxicity*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Vascular Calcification / chemically induced
  • Vascular Calcification / metabolism*
  • Vascular Calcification / prevention & control


  • Macrolides
  • Methylamines
  • Phosphates
  • bafilomycin A1
  • methylamine