Calcifying nanoparticles promote mineralization in vascular smooth muscle cells: Implications for atherosclerosis

Larry W. Hunter, Jon E. Charlesworth, Sam Yu, John C. Lieske, Virginia M. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Nano-sized complexes of calcium phosphate mineral and proteins (calcifying nanoparticles [CNPs]) serve as mineral chaperones. Thus, CNPs may be both a result and cause of soft tissue calcification processes. This study determined if CNPs could augment calcification of arterial vascular smooth muscle cells in vitro. Methods: CNPs 210 nm in diameter were propagated in vitro from human serum. Porcine aortic smooth muscle cells were cultured for up to 28 days in medium in the absence (control) or presence of 2 mM phosphate ([P] positive calcification control) or after a single 3-day exposure to CNPs. Transmission electron-microscopy was used to characterize CNPs and to examine their cellular uptake. Calcium deposits were visualized by light microscopy and von Kossa staining and were quantified by colorimetry. Cell viability was quantified by confocal microscopy of live-/dead-stained cells and apoptosis was examined concurrently by fluorescent labeling of exposed phosphatidylserine. Results: CNPs, as well as smaller calcium crystals, were observed by transmission electron-microscopy on day 3 in CNP-treated but not P-treated cells. By day 28, calcium deposits were visible in similar amounts within multicellular nodules of both CNP- and P-treated cells. Apoptosis increased with cell density under all treatments. CNP treatment augmented the density of apoptotic bodies and cellular debris in association with mineralized multicellular nodules. Conclusion: Exogenous CNPs are taken up by aortic smooth muscle cells in vitro and potentiate accumulation of smooth-muscle-derived apoptotic bodies at sites of mineralization. Thus, CNPs may accelerate vascular calcification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2689-2698
Number of pages10
JournalInternational journal of nanomedicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 27 2014


  • Biomineralization
  • Hydroxyapatite
  • Protein-mineral complex
  • Vascular calcification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Organic Chemistry


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