Arterial medial calcification (AMC) has been associated with phenotypic changes in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) that reportedly makes them more osteoblast-like. Previous work has shown that ATP/UTP can inhibit AMC directly via P2 receptors and indirectly by NPP1-mediated hydrolysis to produce the mineralisation inhibitor, pyrophosphate (PPi). This study investigated the role of P2X receptors in the inhibitory effects of extracellular nucleotides on VSMC calcification. We found that Bz-ATP, α,β-meATP and β,γ-meATP, inhibited calcification by up to 100%. Culture in a high phosphate medium (2mM) was associated with increased VSMC death and apoptosis; treatment with Bz-ATP, α,β-meATP and β,γ-meATP reduced apoptosis to levels seen in non-calcifying cells. Calcification was also associated with alterations in the protein levels of VSMC (e.g. SM22α, SMA) and osteoblast-associated (e.g. Runx2, osteopontin) markers; Bz-ATP, α,β-meATP and β,γ-meATP attenuated these changes in protein expression. Long-term culture with Bz-ATP, α,β-meATP and β,γ-meATP resulted in lower extracellular ATP levels and an increased rate of ATP breakdown. P2X receptor antagonists failed to prevent the inhibitory effects of these analogues suggesting that they act via P2X receptor-independent mechanisms. In agreement, the breakdown products of α,β-meATP and β,γ-meATP (α,β-meADP and methylene diphosphonate, respectively) also dose dependently inhibited VSMC calcification. Furthermore, the actions of Bz-ATP, α,β-meATP and β,γ-meATP were unchanged in VSMCs isolated from NPP1 knockout mice, suggesting that the functional effects of these compounds do not involve NPP1-mediated generation of PPi. Together, these results indicate that the inhibitory effects of ATP analogues on VSMC calcification and apoptosis in vitro may be mediated, at least in part, by mechanisms that are independent of purinergic signalling and PPi.
- Arterial medial calcification
- Vascular smooth muscle cells
- ATP analogues
- P2X receptors