p53 Regulates Mitochondrial Dynamics in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Calcification

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Jan 13;24(2):1643. doi: 10.3390/ijms24021643.


Arterial calcification is an important characteristic of cardiovascular disease. It has key parallels with skeletal mineralization; however, the underlying cellular mechanisms responsible are not fully understood. Mitochondrial dynamics regulate both bone and vascular function. In this study, we therefore examined mitochondrial function in vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) calcification. Phosphate (Pi)-induced VSMC calcification was associated with elongated mitochondria (1.6-fold increase, p < 0.001), increased mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) production (1.83-fold increase, p < 0.001) and reduced mitophagy (9.6-fold decrease, p < 0.01). An increase in protein expression of optic atrophy protein 1 (OPA1; 2.1-fold increase, p < 0.05) and a converse decrease in expression of dynamin-related protein 1 (DRP1; 1.5-fold decrease, p < 0.05), two crucial proteins required for the mitochondrial fusion and fission process, respectively, were noted. Furthermore, the phosphorylation of DRP1 Ser637 was increased in the cytoplasm of calcified VSMCs (5.50-fold increase), suppressing mitochondrial translocation of DRP1. Additionally, calcified VSMCs showed enhanced expression of p53 (2.5-fold increase, p < 0.05) and β-galactosidase activity (1.8-fold increase, p < 0.001), the cellular senescence markers. siRNA-mediated p53 knockdown reduced calcium deposition (8.1-fold decrease, p < 0.01), mitochondrial length (3.0-fold decrease, p < 0.001) and β-galactosidase activity (2.6-fold decrease, p < 0.001), with concomitant mitophagy induction (3.1-fold increase, p < 0.05). Reduced OPA1 (4.1-fold decrease, p < 0.05) and increased DRP1 protein expression (2.6-fold increase, p < 0.05) with decreased phosphorylation of DRP1 Ser637 (3.20-fold decrease, p < 0.001) was also observed upon p53 knockdown in calcifying VSMCs. In summary, we demonstrate that VSMC calcification promotes notable mitochondrial elongation and cellular senescence via DRP1 phosphorylation. Furthermore, our work indicates that p53-induced mitochondrial fusion underpins cellular senescence by reducing mitochondrial function.

Keywords: arterial calcification; mitochondrial dynamics; senescence; vascular smooth muscle cells.

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Mitochondrial Dynamics* / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Dynamics* / physiology
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular* / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism
  • Vascular Calcification* / genetics
  • Vascular Calcification* / metabolism
  • beta-Galactosidase / metabolism


  • beta-Galactosidase
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • OPA1 protein, human
  • DNM1L protein, human
  • TP53 protein, human
  • GLB1 protein, human