Calcium accumulation in atherosclerotic plaques predicts cardiovascular mortality, but the mechanisms responsible for plaque calcification and how calcification impacts plaque stability remain debated. Tissue-nonspecific alkaline phosphatase (TNAP) recently emerged as a promising therapeutic target to block cardiovascular calcification. In this study, we sought to investigate the effect of the recently developed TNAP inhibitor SBI-425 on atherosclerosis plaque calcification and progression. TNAP levels were investigated in ApoE-deficient mice fed a high-fat diet from 10 weeks of age and in plaques from the human ECLAGEN biocollection (101 calcified and 14 non-calcified carotid plaques). TNAP was inhibited in mice using SBI-425 administered from 10 to 25 weeks of age, and in human vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) with MLS-0038949. Plaque calcification was imaged in vivo with 18F-NaF-PET/CT, ex vivo with osteosense, and in vitro with alizarin red. Bone architecture was determined with µCT. TNAP activation preceded and predicted calcification in human and mouse plaques, and TNAP inhibition prevented calcification in human VSMCs and in ApoE-deficient mice. More unexpectedly, TNAP inhibition reduced the blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, and protected mice from atherosclerosis, without impacting the skeletal architecture. Metabolomics analysis of liver extracts identified phosphocholine as a substrate of liver TNAP, who's decreased dephosphorylation upon TNAP inhibition likely reduced the release of cholesterol and triglycerides into the blood. Systemic inhibition of TNAP protects from atherosclerosis, by ameliorating dyslipidemia, and preventing plaque calcification.
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