Osteogenic regulation of vascular calcification: An early perspective

Radhika Vattikuti, Dwight A. Towler

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

330 Scopus citations


Cardiovascular calcification is a common consequence of aging, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, mechanically abnormal valve function, and chronic renal insufficiency. Although vascular calcification may appear to be a uniform response to vascular insult, it is a heterogenous disorder, with overlapping yet distinct mechanisms of initiation and progression. A minimum of four histoanatomic variants-atherosclerotic (fibrotic) calcification, cardiac valve calcification, medial artery calcification, and vascular calciphylaxis-arise in response to metabolic, mechanical, infectious, and inflammatory injuries. Common to the first three variants is a variable degree of vascular infiltration by T cells and macrophages. Once thought benign, the deleterious clinical consequences of calcific vasculopathy are now becoming clear; stroke, amputation, ischemic heart disease, and increased mortality are portended by the anatomy and extent of calcific vasculopathy. Along with dystrophic calcium deposition in dying cells and lipoprotein deposits, active endochondral and intramembranous (nonendochondral) ossification processes contribute to vascular calcium load. Thus vascular calcification is subject to regulation by osteotropic hormones and skeletal morphogens in addition to key inhibitors of passive tissue mineralization. In response to oxidized lipids, inflammation, and mechanical injury, the microvascular smooth muscle cell becomes activated. Orthotopically, proliferating stromal myofibroblasts provide osteoprogenitors for skeletal growth and fracture repair; however, in valves and arteries, vascular myofibroblasts contribute to cardiovascular ossification. Current data suggest that paracrine signals are provided by bone morphogenetic protein-2, Wnts, parathyroid hormone-related polypeptide, osteopontin, osteoprotegerin, and matrix Gla protein, all entrained to endocrine, metabolic, inflammatory, and mechanical cues. In end-stage renal disease, a "perfect storm" of vascular calcification often occurs, with hyperglycemia, hyperphosphatemia, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, parathyroid hormone resistance, and iatrogenic calcitriol excess contributing to severe calcific vasculopathy. This brief review recounts emerging themes in the pathobiology of vascular calcification and highlights some fundamental deficiencies in our understanding of vascular endocrinology and metabolism that are immediately relevant to human health and health care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E686-E696
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number5 49-5
StatePublished - May 2004


  • Adipocyte
  • Bone morphogenetic protein-2
  • Cholesterol
  • Chondrocyte
  • Diabetes
  • Macrophage
  • Osteoblast
  • Osteopontin
  • Parathyroid hormone
  • Parathyroid hormone-related polypeptide
  • Pericyte
  • T cell
  • Vitamin D

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Osteogenic regulation of vascular calcification: An early perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this