SLUG Is Expressed in Endothelial Cells Lacking Primary Cilia to Promote Cellular Calcification
Objective—Arterial calcification is considered a major cause of death and disabilities worldwide because the associated vascular remodeling leads to myocardial infarction, stroke, aneurysm, and pulmonary embolism. This process occurs via poorly understood mechanisms involving a variety of cell types, intracellular mediators, and extracellular cues within the vascular wall. An inverse correlation between endothelial primary cilia and vascular calcified areas has been described although the signaling mechanisms involved remain unknown. We aim to investigate the signaling pathways regulated by the primary cilium that modulate the contribution of endothelial cells to vascular calcification.
Approach and Results—We found that human and murine endothelial cells lacking primary cilia are prone to undergo mineralization in response to bone morphogenetic proteins stimulation in vitro. Using the Tg737orpk/orpk cilium-defective mouse model, we show that nonciliated aortic endothelial cells acquire the ability to transdifferentiate into mineralizing osteogenic cells, in a bone morphogenetic protein–dependent manner. We identify β-CATENIN–induced SLUG as a key transcription factor controlling this process. Moreover, we show that the endothelial expression of SLUG is restricted to atheroprone areas in the aorta of LDLR−/− mice. Finally, we demonstrate that SLUG and phospho-homolog of the drosophila protein, mothers against decapentaplegic (MAD) the C. elegans protein smooth muscle actin-1/5/8 expression increases in endothelial cells constituting the vasa vasorum in the human aorta during the progression toward atherosclerosis.
Conclusions—We demonstrated that the lack of primary cilia sensitizes the endothelium to undergo bone morphogenetic protein–dependent-osteogenic differentiation. These data emphasize the role of the endothelial cells in the vascular calcification and uncovers SLUG as a key target in atherosclerosis.
- Received June 16, 2014.
- Accepted January 21, 2015.
- © 2015 American Heart Association, Inc.