Axl/phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase signaling inhibits mineral deposition by vascular smooth muscle cells

Georgina D M Collett, Andrew P. Sage, John Paul Kirton, M. Yvonne Alexander, Andrew P. Gilmore, Ann E. Canfield

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The calcification of blood vessels correlates with increased morbidity and mortality in patients with atherosclerosis, diabetes, and end-stage kidney disease. The receptor tyrosine kinase Axl is emerging as an important regulator of adult mammalian physiology and pathology. This study tests the hypothesis that Axl prevents the deposition of a calcified matrix by vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) and that this occurs via the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway. First, we demonstrate that Axl is expressed and phosphorylated in confluent VSMCs and that its expression is markedly downregulated as these cells calcify their matrix. Second, we demonstrate that overexpression of wild-type Axl, using recombinant adenoviruses, enhances Axl phosphorylation and downstream signaling via PI3K and Akt. Furthermore, overexpression of Axl significantly inhibits mineral deposition by VSMCs, as assessed by alizarin red staining and Ca accumulation. Third, the addition of a PI3K inhibitor, wortmannin, negates the inhibition of mineralization by overexpression of wild-type Axl, suggesting that activation of downstream signaling via PI3K is crucial for its inhibitory activity. In contrast, Axl-mediated signaling is not enhanced by overexpression of kinase-dead Axl and mineralization is accelerated, although β-glycerophosphate is still required for this effect. Finally, the caspase inhibitor zVAD.fmk attenuates the increased mineralization induced by kinase-dead Axl, suggesting that kinase-dead Axl stimulates mineralization by inhibiting the antiapoptotic effect of endogenous Axl. Together, these results demonstrate that signaling through Axl inhibits vascular calcification in vitro and suggest that therapeutics targeting this receptor may open up new avenues for the prevention of vascular calcification in vivo. © 2007 American Heart Association, Inc.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)502-509
    Number of pages7
    JournalCirculation research
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007


    • Axl receptor tyrosine kinase
    • Calcification
    • Differentiation
    • Signaling pathways
    • Vascular smooth muscle cells


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