Vascular calcification, a pathologic response to defective calcium and phosphate homeostasis, is strongly associated with cardiovascular mortality and morbidity. In this study, we have observed that pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 (PDK4) is upregulated and pyruvate dehydrogenase complex phosphorylation is increased in calcifying vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) and in calcified vessels of patients with atherosclerosis, suggesting that PDK4 plays an important role in vascular calcification. Both genetic and pharmacological inhibition of PDK4 ameliorated the calcification in phosphate-treated VSMCs and aortic rings and in vitamin D3-treated mice. PDK4 augmented the osteogenic differentiation of VSMCs by phosphorylating SMAD1/5/8 via direct interaction, which enhances BMP2 signaling. Furthermore, increased expression of PDK4 in phosphate-treated VSMCs induced mitochondrial dysfunction followed by apoptosis. Taken together, our results show that upregulation of PDK4 promotes vascular calcification by increasing osteogenic markers with no adverse effect on bone formation, demonstrating that PDK4 is a therapeutic target for vascular calcification.
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