Uraemic extracellular vesicles augment osteogenic transdifferentiation of vascular smooth muscle cells via enhanced AKT signalling and PiT-1 expression

J Cell Mol Med. 2021 Jun;25(12):5602-5614. doi: 10.1111/jcmm.16572. Epub 2021 May 7.


Extracellular vesicles (EV) function as messengers between endothelial cells (EC) and vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC). Since chronic kidney disease (CKD) increases the risk for vascular calcifications, we investigated whether EV derived from uraemic milieu-stimulated EC and derived from uraemic rats impact the osteogenic transdifferentiation/calcification of VSMC. For that purpose, human EC were treated with urea and indoxyl sulphate or left untreated. Experimental uraemia in rats was induced by adenine feeding. 'Uraemic' and control EV (EVUR ; EVCTRL ) were isolated from supernatants and plasma by using an exosome isolation reagent. Rat VSMC were treated with a pro-calcifying medium (CM) with or without EV supplementation. Gene expressions, miRNA contents and protein expressions were determined by qPCR and Western blots, respectively. Calcifications were determined by colorimetric assays. Delivery of miRNA inhibitors/mimics to EV and siRNA to VSMC was achieved via transfection. EVCTRL and EVUR differed in size and miRNA contents. Contrary to EVCTRL , EC- and plasma-derived EVUR significantly increased the pro-calcifying effects of CM, including altered gene expressions of osterix, runx2, osteocalcin and SM22α. Further, EVUR enhanced the protein expression of the phosphate transporter PiT-1 in VSMC and induced a phosphorylation of AKT and ERK. Knock down of PiT-1 and individual inhibition of AKT and ERK signalling in VSMC blocked the pro-calcifying effects of EVUR . Similar effects were achieved by inhibition of miR-221/-222 and mimicking of miR-143/-145 in EVUR . In conclusion, EVUR might represent an additional puzzle piece of the complex pathophysiology of vascular calcifications in CKD.

Keywords: chronic kidney disease; exosomes; extracellular vesicles; uraemia; vascular calcification; vascular smooth muscle cells.