Sphingosine 1-phosphate activation of ERM contributes to vascular calcification

J Lipid Res. 2018 Jan;59(1):69-78. doi: 10.1194/jlr.M079731. Epub 2017 Nov 22.


Vascular calcification is the deposition of mineral in the artery wall by vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) in response to pathological stimuli. The process is similar to bone formation and is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Given that ceramide and sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) are involved in cardiovascular pathophysiology and biomineralization, their role in VSMC matrix mineralization was investigated. During phosphate-induced VSMC mineralization, endogenous S1P levels increased accompanied by increased sphingosine kinase (SK) activity and increased mRNA expression of SK1 and SK2. Consistent with this, mineralization was increased by exogenous S1P, but decreased by C2-ceramide. Mechanistically, exogenous S1P stimulated ezrin-radixin-moesin (ERM) phosphorylation in VSMCs and ERM phosphorylation was increased concomitantly with endogenous S1P during mineralization. Moreover, inhibition of acid sphingomyelinase and ceramidase with desipramine prevented increased S1P levels, ERM activation, and mineralization. Finally, pharmacological inhibition of ERM phosphorylation with NSC663894 decreased mineralization induced by phosphate and exogenous S1P. Although further studies will be needed to verify these findings in vivo, this study defines a novel role for the SK-S1P-ERM pathways in phosphate-induced VSMC matrix mineralization and shows that blocking these pathways with pharmacological inhibitors reduces mineralization. These results may inform new therapeutic approaches to inhibit or delay vascular calcification.

Keywords: acid sphingomyelinase; arteries; biomineralization; cardiovascular disease; ceramides; ezrin; ezrin-radixin-moesin; signal transduction; smooth muscle cells; sphingosine kinase; vascular biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Lysophospholipids / analysis
  • Lysophospholipids / metabolism*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Microfilament Proteins / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Sphingosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Sphingosine / analysis
  • Sphingosine / metabolism
  • Vascular Calcification / metabolism*


  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Lysophospholipids
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • ezrin
  • moesin
  • radixin
  • sphingosine 1-phosphate
  • Sphingosine