Phosphate burden induces vascular calcification through a NLRP3-caspase-1-mediated pyroptotic pathway

Li Chun Ho, Yu Hsin Chen, Ting Yun Wu, Ling Zhen Kao, Shih Yuan Hung, Hung Hsiang Liou, Pei Chun Chen, Pei Jane Tsai, Hui Kuan Lin, Yi Che Lee, Hsi Hao Wang, Yau Sheng Tsai

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Aims: The aim of this study is to clarify the role of NLRP3 inflammasome in phosphate burden-induced vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) calcification. Main methods: VSMC calcification was induced using a high concentration of inorganic phosphate. After pharmacological inhibition or genetic silencing of the NLRP3 inflammasome, pyroptosis, or potassium efflux, the cells were examined by RT-qPCR, immunofluorescence, and western blotting to identify the NLRP3-mediated pathway for VSMC calcification. Key findings: Calcified VSMCs with α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) disarray presented features of pyroptosis, including caspase-1 maturation, cleaved gasdermin D (GSDMD), and a high supernatant level of lactate dehydrogenase A. Pharmacological inhibitions of caspase-1 and pyroptosis attenuated VSMC calcification, whereas interleukin-1β receptor antagonism did not. Unlike canonical NLRP3 activation, osteogenic VSMCs did not upregulate NLRP3 expression. However, NLRP3 genetic silencing or inhibitions, which targets different domains of the NLRP3 protein, could ameliorate VSMC calcification by aborting caspase-1 and GSDMD activation. Furthermore, potassium efflux through the inward-rectifier potassium channel, and not through the P2X7 receptor, triggered NLRP3 inflammasome activation and VSMC calcification. Significance: In the present study, we identified a potassium efflux-triggered NLRP3-caspase-1-mediated pyroptotic pathway for VSMC calcification that is unique and different from the canonical NLRP3 inflammasome activation. Therefore, targeting this pathway may serve as a novel therapeutic strategy for vascular calcification.

Original languageEnglish
Article number122123
JournalLife Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Nov 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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