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Objective- Vascular calcification (VC) is age dependent and a risk factor for cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. VC involves the senescence-induced transdifferentiation of vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) toward an osteochondrogenic lineage resulting in arterial wall mineralization. miR-34a increases with age in aortas and induces vascular SMC senescence through the modulation of its target SIRT1 (sirtuin 1). In this study, we aimed to investigate whether miR-34a regulates VC. Approach and Results- We found that miR-34a and Runx2 (Runt-related transcription factor 2) expression correlates in young and old mice. Mir34a+/+ and Mir34a-/- mice were treated with vitamin D, and calcium quantification revealed that Mir34a deficiency reduces soft tissue and aorta medial calcification and the upregulation of the VC Sox9 (SRY [sex-determining region Y]-box 9) and Runx2 and the senescence p16 and p21 markers. In this model, miR-34a upregulation was transient and preceded aorta mineralization. Mir34a-/- SMCs were less prone to undergo senescence and under osteogenic conditions deposited less calcium compared with Mir34a+/+ cells. Furthermore, unlike in Mir34a+/+ SMC, the known VC inhibitors SIRT1 and Axl (AXL receptor tyrosine kinase) were only partially downregulated in calcifying Mir34a-/- SMC. Strikingly, constitutive miR-34a overexpression to senescence-like levels in human aortic SMCs increased calcium deposition and enhanced Axl and SIRT1 decrease during calcification. Notably, we also showed that miR-34a directly decreased Axl expression in human aortic SMC, and restoration of its levels partially rescued miR-34a-dependent growth arrest. Conclusions- miR-34a promotes VC via vascular SMC mineralization by inhibiting cell proliferation and inducing senescence through direct Axl and SIRT1 downregulation, respectively. This miRNA could be a good therapeutic target for the treatment of VC.

Original publication




Journal article


Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol

Publication Date





2079 - 2090


aging, humans, mice, senescence, vascular calcification, Adult, Aging, Animals, Aorta, Cell Proliferation, Cells, Cultured, Cellular Senescence, Core Binding Factor Alpha 1 Subunit, Down-Regulation, Humans, Male, Mice, Mice, Knockout, MicroRNAs, Muscle, Smooth, Vascular, Myocytes, Smooth Muscle, Proto-Oncogene Proteins, Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases, SOX9 Transcription Factor, Sirtuin 1, Up-Regulation, Vascular Calcification, Young Adult