Role of SGK1 in the Osteogenic Transdifferentiation and Calcification of Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells Promoted by Hyperglycemic Conditions

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Sep 29;21(19):7207. doi: 10.3390/ijms21197207.


In diabetes mellitus, hyperglycemia promotes the osteogenic transdifferentiation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) to enhance medial vascular calcification, a common complication strongly associated with cardiovascular disease and mortality. The mechanisms involved are, however, still poorly understood. Therefore, the present study explored the potential role of serum- and glucocorticoid-inducible kinase 1 (SGK1) during vascular calcification promoted by hyperglycemic conditions. Exposure to high-glucose conditions up-regulated the SGK1 expression in primary human aortic VSMCs. High glucose increased osteogenic marker expression and activity and, thus, promoted the osteogenic transdifferentiation of VSMCs, effects significantly suppressed by additional treatment with the SGK1 inhibitor EMD638683. Moreover, high glucose augmented the mineralization of VSMCs in the presence of calcification medium, effects again significantly reduced by SGK1 inhibition. Similarly, SGK1 knockdown blunted the high glucose-induced osteogenic transdifferentiation of VSMCs. The osteoinductive signaling promoted by high glucose required SGK1-dependent NF-kB activation. In addition, advanced glycation end products (AGEs) increased the SGK1 expression in VSMCs, and SGK1 inhibition was able to interfere with AGEs-induced osteogenic signaling. In conclusion, SGK1 is up-regulated and mediates, at least partly, the osteogenic transdifferentiation and calcification of VSMCs during hyperglycemic conditions. Thus, SGK1 inhibition may reduce the development of vascular calcification promoted by hyperglycemia in diabetes.

Keywords: NF-kB; SGK1; advanced glycation end products; diabetes mellitus; high glucose; osteogenic transdifferentiation; vascular calcification; vascular smooth muscle cells.

MeSH terms

  • Aorta / growth & development
  • Aorta / metabolism
  • Aorta / pathology
  • Benzamides / pharmacology
  • Calcinosis / genetics*
  • Calcinosis / metabolism
  • Calcinosis / pathology
  • Cell Transdifferentiation / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus / genetics*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / pathology
  • Glucose / adverse effects
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced / genetics
  • Humans
  • Hydrazines / pharmacology
  • Hyperglycemia / genetics*
  • Hyperglycemia / pathology
  • Immediate-Early Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Immediate-Early Proteins / genetics*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / metabolism
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / pathology
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / pathology
  • Osteogenesis / genetics
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics


  • Benzamides
  • EMD 638683
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced
  • Hydrazines
  • Immediate-Early Proteins
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • serum-glucocorticoid regulated kinase
  • Glucose