Vascular calcifications are a hallmark of advanced cardiovascular disease in patients with chronic kidney disease. A key event is the transition of contractile vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) into an osteoblast-like phenotype, promoting a coordinated process of vascular remodeling resembling bone mineralization. Intermediate-conductance calcium-activated potassium channels (KCa3.1) are expressed in various tissues including VSMC. Aiming for novel therapeutic targets in vascular calcification, we here studied effects of KCa3.1-inhibition on VSMC calcification by the specific KCa3.1 inhibitor TRAM-34.
Calcification in the murine VSMC cell line MOVAS-1 and primary rat VSMC was induced by calcification medium (CM) containing elevated levels of PO43− and Ca2+. Cell signaling, calcification markers, and release of nitric oxide and alkaline phosphatase were assessed by luciferase reporter plasmids, RT-PCR and specific enzymatic assays, respectively. KCa3.1 gene silencing was achieved by siRNA experiments.
TRAM-34 at 10 nmol/l, decreased CM-induced calcification and induced NO release of VSMC accompanied by decreased TGF-β signaling. The CM-induced mRNA expressions of osterix, osteocalcin, matrix-metalloproteinases (MMP)-2/-9 were reduced by TRAM-34 while osteopontin expression was increased. Further, TRAM-34 attenuated the CM- and TNF-α-induced activation of NF-κB and reduced the release of MMP-2/-9 by VSMC. Finally, TRAM-34 abrogated CM-induced apoptosis and KCa3.1 gene silencing protected VSMC from CM-induced onset of calcification.
In summary, TRAM-34 interferes with calcification relevant signaling of NF-κB and TGF-β thereby blocking the phenotypic transition/calcification of VSMC.
We conclude that the results provide a rationale for further studies regarding a possible therapeutic role of KCa3.1 inhibition by TRAM-34 or other inhibitors in vascular calcification.