Aortic Msx2-Wnt calcification cascade is regulated by TNF-α-dependent signals in diabetic Ldlr-/- mice

Ziyad Al-Aly, Jian Su Shao, Chung Fang Lai, Emily Huang, Jun Cai, Abraham Behrmann, Su Li Cheng, Dwight A. Towler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

263 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE - Aortic calcification is prevalent in type II diabetes (T2DM), enhancing morbidity and tracking metabolic syndrome parameters. Ldlr mice fed high-fat "Westernized" diets (HFD) accumulate aortic calcium primarily in the tunica media, mediated via osteogenic morphogens and transcriptional programs that induce aortic alkaline phosphatase (ALP). Because elevated TNF-α is characteristic of obesity with T2DM, we examined contributions of this inflammatory cytokine. METHODS AND RESULTS - HFD promoted obesity, hyperglycemia, and hyperlipidemia, and upregulated serum TNF-α in Ldlr mice. Serum haptoglobin (inflammatory marker) was increased along with aortic expression of BMP2, Msx2, Wnt3a, and Wnt7a. Dosing with the TNF-α neutralizing antibody infliximab did not reduce obesity, hypercholesterolemia, or hyperglycemia; however, haptoglobin, aortic BMP2, Msx2, Wnt3a, and Wnt7a and aortic calcium accumulation were downregulated by infliximab. Mice with vascular TNF-α augmented by a transgene (SM22-TNFαTg) driven from the SM22 promoter upregulated aortic Msx2, Wnt3a, and Wnt7a. Furthermore, SM22-TNFαTg;TOPGAL mice exhibited greater aortic β-galactosidase reporter staining versus TOPGAL sibs, indicating enhanced mural Wnt signaling. In aortic myofibroblast cultures, TNF-α upregulated Msx2, Wnt3a, Wnt7a, and ALP. ALP induction was inhibited by Dkk1, an antagonist of paracrine Wnt actions. CONCLUSIONS - TNF-α promote aortic Msx2-Wnt programs that contribute to aortic calcium accumulation in T2DM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2589-2596
Number of pages8
JournalArteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Aortic calcification
  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • TNF-α
  • Wnt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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