OBJECTIVE - Dystrophic calcific nodule formation in vitro involves differentiation of aortic valve interstitial cells (AVICs) into a myofibroblast phenotype. Interestingly, inhibition of the kinase MAPK Erk kinase (MEK)1/2 prevents calcific nodule formation despite leading to myofibroblast activation of AVICs, indicating the presence of an additional mechanotransductive component required for calcific nodule morphogenesis. In this study, we assess the role of transforming growth factor β1-induced cadherin-11 expression in calcific nodule formation.
METHODS AND RESULTS - As shown previously, porcine AVICs treated with transforming growth factor β1 before cyclic strain exhibit increased myofibroblast activation and significant calcific nodule formation. In addition to an increase in contractile myofibroblast markers, transforming growth factor β1-treated AVICs exhibit significantly increased expression of cadherin-11. This expression is inhibited by the addition of U0126, a specific MEK1/2 inhibitor. The role of increased cadherin-11 is revealed through a wound assay, which demonstrates increased intercellular tension in transforming growth factor β1-treated AVICs possessing cadherin-11. Furthermore, when small interfering RNA is used to knockdown cadherin-11, calcific nodule formation is abrogated, indicating that robust cell-cell connections are necessary in generating tension for calcific nodule morphogenesis. Finally, we demonstrate enrichment of cadherin-11 in human calcified leaflets.
CONCLUSIONS - These results indicate the necessity of cadherin-11 for dystrophic calcific nodule formation, which proceeds through an Erk1/2-dependent pathway.