This review focuses on the association between vascular calcification and arterial stiffness, highlighting the important genetic factors, systemic and local microenvironmental signals, and underlying signaling pathways and molecular regulators of vascular calcification. Elevated oxidative stress appears to be a common procalcification factor that induces osteogenic differentiation and calcification of vascular cells in a variety of disease conditions such as atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, and chronic kidney disease. Thus, the role of oxidative stress and oxidative stress-regulated signals in vascular smooth muscle cells and their contributions to vascular calcification are highlighted. In relation to diabetes mellitus, the regulation of both hyperglycemia and increased protein glycosylation, by AGEs (advanced glycation end products) and O-linked β-N-acetylglucosamine modification, and its role in enhancing intracellular pathophysiological signaling that promotes osteogenic differentiation and calcification of vascular smooth muscle cells are discussed. In the context of chronic kidney disease, this review details the role of calcium and phosphate homeostasis, parathyroid hormone, and specific calcification inhibitors in regulating vascular calcification. In addition, the impact of the systemic and microenvironmental factors on respective intrinsic signaling pathways that promote osteogenic differentiation and calcification of vascular smooth muscle cells and osteoblasts are compared and contrasted, aiming to dissect the commonalities and distinctions that underlie the paradoxical vascular-bone mineralization disorders in aging and diseases.
Keywords: arterial stiffness; atherosclerosis; diabetes mellitus; renal insufficiency, chronic; vascular calcification.