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1.  Association of kidney function and uncarboxylated matrix Gla protein: Data from the Heart and Soul Study 
Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation  2009;24(7):2095-2101.
Background. Vascular calcification is highly prevalent in persons with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and predicts cardiovascular disease (CVD) events. Matrix Gla protein (MGP) is a potent inhibitor of vascular calcification, and lower levels of its precursor—uncarboxylated MGP (ucMGP)—are associated with vascular calcification and atherosclerosis. Whether mild to moderate decrements in kidney function are associated with lower serum ucMGP is unknown.
Methods. In a cross-sectional study among 842 outpatients with stable CVD, estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), serum cystatin-C and urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (ACR) were measured and serum ucMGP levels were determined by ELISA. Multivariate linear regression evaluated the association of each kidney function measure with serum ucMGP levels.
Results. The mean eGFR was 76 ± 23 mL/min/1.73 m2, and 186 subjects (22%) had moderate CKD (eGFR <60 mL/min/1.73 m2). The mean ± SD ucMGP level was 3289 ± 1177 nM. In unadjusted analysis, each 10 mL/ min/1.73 m2 lower eGFR was associated with 101 nM lower ucMGP level. This association was only minimally attenuated in final multivariate models wherein each 10 mL/ min/1.73 m2 lower eGFR was associated with 79 nM lower ucMGP (95% confidence interval [CI]; 44 to 115; P < 0.001) after adjustment for age, sex, race, body mass index, blood pressure, smoking, hypertension, diabetes; and serum albumin, calcium, phosphorus, and fetuin-A levels. Similarly, in models adjusted for identical covariates, each 0.1 mg/L higher cystatin-C was associated with 39 nM lower ucMGP (95% CI 23 to 55; P < 0.001). In contrast, no significant association was observed between ACR and ucMGP in either unadjusted or adjusted analyses (adjusted P = 0.17). All associations were similar among subjects with or without diabetes (P-values for interaction > 0.50).
Conclusions. Among outpatients with stable CVD, a reduced glomerular filtration rate is associated with a decreased serum ucMGP level. In contrast, ACR is not associated with ucMGP levels. Whether ucMGP is a useful marker of vascular calcification and CVD event risk in persons with CKD deserves future study.
doi:10.1093/ndt/gfp024
PMCID: PMC2721482  PMID: 19204017
atherosclerosis; chronic kidney disease; matrix Gla protein; vascular calcification
2.  Vascular calcification in patients with type 2 diabetes: the involvement of matrix Gla protein 
Background
Matrix Gla protein (MGP) is an important inhibitor of calcification. The objective of the present study of patients with type 2 diabetes and normal or slightly altered kidney function was to evaluate levels of inactive, dephospho-uncarboxylated MGP(dp-ucMGP) and total uncarboxylated MGP(t-ucMGP) and assess their links with biological and clinical parameters (including peripheral vascular calcification).
Methods
The DIACART study is a cross-sectional cohort study of 198 patients with type 2 diabetes and normal or slightly altered kidney function. Matrix Gla protein levels were measured with an ELISA and all patients underwent multislice spiral computed tomography scans to score below-knee arterial calcification.
Results
In the study population as a whole, the mean dp-ucMGP and t-ucMGP levels were 627 ± 451 pM and 4868 ± 1613 nM, respectively. Glomerular filtration rate, age and current vitamin K antagonist use were independently associated with dp-ucMGP levels. When the study population was divided according to the median peripheral arterial calcification score, patients with the higher score displayed significantly lower t-ucMGP and significantly higher dp-ucMGP levels. Furthermore, plasma dp-ucMGP was positively associated with the peripheral arterial calcification score (independently of age, gender, previous cardiovascular disease and t-ucMGP levels).
Conclusions
High dp-ucMGP levels were independently associated with below-knee arterial calcification score in patients with type 2 diabetes and normal or slightly altered kidney function. The reversibility of the elevation of dp-ucMGP levels and the latter’s relationship with clinical events merit further investigation.
doi:10.1186/1475-2840-13-85
PMCID: PMC4017083  PMID: 24762216
Matrix gla protein; Type 2 diabetes; Peripheral calcification
3.  The Association of Uncarboxylated Matrix Gla Protein with Mitral Annular Calcification Differs by Diabetes Status: The Heart and Soul Study 
Atherosclerosis  2009;210(1):320-325.
Objective
Mitral annular calcification (MAC) and aortic stenosis (AS) are associated with systemic calcification and cardiovascular disease (CVD) events. Matrix Gla protein (MGP) is an inhibitor of vascular calcification and lower levels of its precursor – uncarboxylated MGP (ucMGP) – are associated with vascular calcification in pilot studies.
Methods and Results
In this cross-sectional study of 839 outpatients with stable CVD, we measured serum ucMGP, and evaluated MAC and AS by echocardiography. The association of ucMGP with MAC differed by diabetes status (interaction P<0.001). Among participants without diabetes (n=615), higher ucMGP (per standard deviation [1,178 nM] increase) was associated with lower odds of MAC (odds ratio [OR] 0.73; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.55-0.97) in models adjusted for traditional CVD risk factors, C-reactive protein, and kidney function. Among persons with diabetes (n=221), higher ucMGP was associated with higher odds of MAC (OR 1.89; 95% CI 1.29-2.78). Results were qualitatively similar for the association of ucMGP with AS although not statistically significant.
Conclusions
Among outpatients with stable CVD, higher ucMGP is associated with lower odds of MAC in persons without diabetes, and higher odds of MAC in persons with diabetes. Future studies should determine whether ucMGP levels are associated with CVD events, and whether such associations differ by diabetes status.
doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2009.11.023
PMCID: PMC2862076  PMID: 20015492
aortic stenosis; calcification; diabetes mellitus; matrix Gla protein; mitral annular calcification
4.  Dephosphorylated-uncarboxylated Matrix Gla protein concentration is predictive of vitamin K status and is correlated with vascular calcification in a cohort of hemodialysis patients 
BMC Nephrology  2014;15:145.
Background
Matrix Gla protein (MGP) is known to act as a potent local inhibitor of vascular calcifications. However, in order to be active, MGP must be phosphorylated and carboxylated, with this last process being dependent on vitamin K. The present study focused on the inactive form of MGP (dephosphorylated and uncarboxylated: dp-ucMGP) in a population of hemodialyzed (HD) patients. Results found in subjects being treated or not with vitamin K antagonist (VKA) were compared and the relationship between dp-ucMGP levels and the vascular calcification score were assessed.
Methods
One hundred sixty prevalent HD patients were enrolled into this observational cohort study, including 23 who were receiving VKA treatment. The calcification score was determined (using the Kauppila method) and dp-ucMGP levels were measured using the automated iSYS method.
Results
dp-ucMGP levels were much higher in patients being treated with VKA and little overlap was found with those not being treated (5604 [3758; 7836] vs. 1939 [1419; 2841] pmol/L, p <0.0001). In multivariate analysis, treatment with VKA was the most important variable explaining variation in dp-ucMGP levels even when adjusting for all other significant variables. In the 137 untreated patients, dp-ucMGP levels were significantly (p < 0.05) associated both in the uni- and multivariate analysis with age, body mass index, plasma levels of albumin, C-reactive protein, and FGF-23, and the vascular calcification score.
Conclusion
We confirmed that the concentration of dp-ucMGP was higher in HD patients being treated with VKA. We observed a significant correlation between dp-ucMGP concentration and the calcification score. Our data support the theoretical role of MGP in the development of vascular calcifications. We confirmed the potential role of the inactive form of MGP in assessing the vitamin K status of the HD patients.
Trial registration
B707201215885
doi:10.1186/1471-2369-15-145
PMCID: PMC4174604  PMID: 25190488
Matrix Gla protein; Vascular calcification; Vitamin K
5.  Associations between Thyroid Hormones, Calcification Inhibitor Levels and Vascular Calcification in End-Stage Renal Disease 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0132353.
Introduction
Vascular calcification is a common, serious and elusive complication of end-stage renal disease (ESRD). As a pro-calcifying risk factor, non-thyroidal illness may promote vascular calcification through a systemic lowering of vascular calcification inhibitors such as matrix-gla protein (MGP) and Klotho.
Methods and Material
In 97 ESRD patients eligible for living donor kidney transplantation, blood levels of thyroid hormones (fT3, fT4 and TSH), total uncarboxylated MGP (t-ucMGP), desphospho-uncarboxylated MGP (dp-ucMGP), descarboxyprothrombin (PIVKA-II), and soluble Klotho (sKlotho) were measured. The degree of coronary calcification and arterial stiffness were assessed by means of cardiac CT-scans and applanation tonometry, respectively.
Results
fT3 levels were inversely associated with coronary artery calcification (CAC) scores and measures of arterial stiffness, and positively with dp-ucMGP and sKlotho concentrations. Subfractions of MGP, PIVKA-II and sKlotho did not associate with CAC scores and arterial stiffness. fT4 and TSH levels were both inversely associated with CAC scores, but not with arterial stiffness.
Discussion
The positive associations between fT3 and dp-ucMGP and sKlotho suggest that synthesis of MGP and Klotho is influenced by thyroid hormones, and supports a link between non-thyroidal illness and alterations in calcification inhibitor levels. However, the absence of an association between serum calcification inhibitor levels and coronary calcification/arterial stiffness and the fact that MGP and Klotho undergo post-translational modifications underscore the complexity of this association. Further studies, measuring total levels of MGP and membrane bound Klotho, should examine this proposed pathway in further detail.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0132353
PMCID: PMC4492991  PMID: 26147960
6.  Matrix Gla Protein Species and Risk of Cardiovascular Events in Type 2 Diabetic Patients 
Diabetes Care  2013;36(11):3766-3771.
OBJECTIVE
To investigate the relationship of circulating matrix Gla protein (MGP) species with incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) or coronary heart disease (CHD) in type 2 diabetic patients.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
EPIC-NL is a prospective cohort study among 40,011 Dutch men and women. At baseline (1993–1997), 518 participants were known to have type 2 diabetes. MGP levels were measured by ELISA techniques in baseline plasma samples. The incidence of fatal and nonfatal CVD and CVD subtypes—CHD, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), heart failure, and stroke—were obtained by linkage to national registers. Cox proportional hazard models were used to calculate hazard ratios (HRs), adjusted for sex, waist-to-hip ratio, physical activity, and history of CVD.
RESULTS
During a median 11.2 years of follow-up, 160 cases of CVD were documented. Higher circulating desphospho-uncarboxylated MGP (dp-ucMGP) levels were significantly associated with higher risk of CVD, with an HR per SD (HRSD) of 1.21 (95% CI 1.06–1.38), PAD (HRSD 1.32 [95% CI 1.07–1.65]), and heart failure (HRSD 1.75 [95% CI 1.42–2.17]) after adjustment. Higher circulating dp-ucMGP levels were not related to risk of CHD (HRSD 1.12 [95% CI 0.94–1.34]) or stroke (HRSD 1.05 [95% CI 0.73–1.49]). Circulating desphospho-carboxylated MGP and circulating total-uncarboxylated MGP levels were not associated with CVD or CVD subtypes.
CONCLUSIONS
High dp-ucMGP levels were associated with increased CVD risk among type 2 diabetic patients, especially with the subtypes PAD and heart failure, while other MGP species were not related to CVD risk. These results suggest that a poor vitamin K status is associated with increased CVD risk.
doi:10.2337/dc13-0065
PMCID: PMC3816877  PMID: 23877986
7.  The Associations of Fibroblast Growth Factor 23 and Uncarboxylated Matrix Gla Protein With Mortality in Coronary Artery Disease: The Heart and Soul Study 
Annals of internal medicine  2010;152(10):640-648.
Background
Fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23), uncarboxylated matrix Gla protein (ucMGP), and fetuin-A are regulators of mineral metabolism and inhibitors of vascular calcification. Whether circulating levels of each are associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) events or mortality in populations without end-stage renal disease is unknown.
Objective
To evaluate the associations of FGF23, ucMGP, and fetuin-A with mortality and CVD events.
Design
Observational study.
Setting
12 outpatient clinics in the San Francisco Bay area.
Patients
833 outpatients with stable coronary artery disease (CAD), recruited from 11 September 2000 to 20 December 2002.
Measurements
Fibroblast growth factor 23, ucMGP, and fetuin-A concentrations were measured at baseline. Participants were followed until 1 December 2008 for mortality and CVD events.
Results
During a median follow-up of 6.0 years, 220 participants died and 182 had CVD events. Compared with participants with FGF-23 levels in the lowest tertile, those in the highest tertile had 2-fold greater risk for mortality (hazard ratio [HR], 2.15 [95% CI, 1.43 to 3.24]) and CVD events (HR, 1.83 [CI, 1.15 to 2.91]) after adjustment for traditional CVD risk factors, C-reactive protein levels, and kidney function. The highest ucMGP tertile was associated with lower mortality risk (HR, 0.48 [CI, 0.31 to 0.75]) and showed a nonsignificant trend toward lower CVD event risk by tertile analysis (HR, 0.65 [CI, 0.40 to 1.05])—an association that was significant when modeled continuously (P = 0.029). No significant association of fetuin-A with mortality (HR, 0.84 [CI, 0.55 to 1.27]) or CVD events (HR, 0.99 [CI, 0.64 to 1.55]) was observed.
Limitation
Participants had prevalent CAD.
Conclusion
In outpatients with stable CAD, higher FGF23 and lower ucMGP levels are independently associated with mortality and CVD events.
Primary Funding Source
American Heart Association.
doi:10.1059/0003-4819-152-10-201005180-00004
PMCID: PMC3079370  PMID: 20479029
8.  The Role of Vitamin K in Soft-Tissue Calcification1 
Advances in Nutrition  2012;3(2):166-173.
Seventeen vitamin K–dependent proteins have been identified to date of which several are involved in regulating soft-tissue calcification. Osteocalcin, matrix Gla protein (MGP), and possibly Gla-rich protein are all inhibitors of soft-tissue calcification and need vitamin K–dependent carboxylation for activity. A common characteristic is their low molecular weight, and it has been postulated that their small size is essential for calcification inhibition within tissues. MGP is synthesized by vascular smooth muscle cells and is the most important inhibitor of arterial mineralization currently known. Remarkably, the extrahepatic Gla proteins mentioned are only partly carboxylated in the healthy adult population, suggesting vitamin K insufficiency. Because carboxylation of the most essential Gla proteins is localized in the liver and that of the less essential Gla proteins in the extrahepatic tissues, a transport system has evolved ensuring preferential distribution of dietary vitamin K to the liver when vitamin K is limiting. This is why the first signs of vitamin K insufficiency are seen as undercarboxylation of the extrahepatic Gla proteins. New conformation-specific assays for circulating uncarboxylated MGP were developed; an assay for desphospho-uncarboxylated matrix Gla protein and another assay for total uncarboxylated matrix Gla protein. Circulating desphospho-uncarboxylated matrix Gla protein was found to be predictive of cardiovascular risk and mortality, whereas circulating total uncarboxylated matrix Gla protein was associated with the extent of prevalent arterial calcification. Vitamin K intervention studies have shown that MGP carboxylation can be increased dose dependently, but thus far only 1 study with clinical endpoints has been completed. This study showed maintenance of vascular elasticity during a 3-y supplementation period, with a parallel 12% loss of elasticity in the placebo group. More studies, both in healthy subjects and in patients at risk of vascular calcification, are required before conclusions can be drawn.
doi:10.3945/an.111.001628
PMCID: PMC3648717  PMID: 22516724
9.  P23 - Vitamin D and K Deficiency in Haemodialysis Patients with a High Prevalence of Vertebral Fractures and Vascular Calcifications: A Preliminary Study 
Introduction:
Vitamin D deficiency is common in dialysis patients, whereas vitamin K status is less investigated despite its important implications for bone metabolism (bone Gla protein is vitamin K-dependent) and for vascular calcifications (matrix Gla protein is vitamin K-dependent).
Materials and methods:
The aim of the study was to assess the prevalence of vitamin D and K deficiency and the presence of vertebral fractures and vascular calcifications in haemodialysis patients (compared with a healthy control group). Subjects: 68 patients, 49 males and 19 females, mean age 66.62 years (± SD 11.3), undergoing thrice-weekly haemodialysis; mean dialytic age: 68.14±56.14 months.
The presence of vertebral fractures was assessed by means of vertebral morphometry (D5–L4) using a quantitative, computerised method (MorphoXpress).
The presence of vascular calcifications was assessed by means of vertebral spinal X-ray in L-L.
We measured biohumoural bone-vascular mineral metabolism parameters: total BGP and decarboxylated BGP (ucBGP), total MGP and decarboxylated MGP (ucMGP).
The presence of vertebral fractures was taken to correspond to a >20% reduction in the height of the vertebral body; a reduction of between 15 and 20% was considered borderline (B).
Results:
In the patients, versus controls, there emerged: deficit of 25(OH)D (98%, 60% carenti-38% insufficienti); vitamin K1 deficiency 32.08%; increased total BGP and ucBGP, increase in total MGP and reduction of ucMGP.
The prevalence of vertebral fractures was 57.35%+B: 27.94%. Vertebral fractures were associated with: anagraphical age (p=0.028), P (p=0.0445) and total BGP (p=0.0420).
The prevalence of vascular calcifications was 84%. Vascular calcifications were associated with: anagraphical age (p=0.0205), Ca (p=0.0192) and ucMGP (0.0453).
Conclusions:
Marked vitamin D and K deficiency was associated with a high prevalence of vertebral fractures and vascular calcifications in haemodialysis patients with biohumoural bone mineral metabolism parameters within the KDOQI targets. Vitamin K is an important new biomarker of the bone-vascular axis in patients with chronic renal insufficiency.
PMCID: PMC3213784
10.  Intra-Section Analysis of Human Coronary Arteries Reveals a Potential Role for Micro-Calcifications in Macrophage Recruitment in the Early Stage of Atherosclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(11):e0142335.
Background
Vascular calcification is associated with poor cardiovascular outcome. Histochemical analysis of calcification and the expression of proteins involved in mineralization are usually based on whole section analysis, thereby often ignoring regional differences in atherosclerotic lesions. At present, limited information is available about factors involved in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis.
Aim of This Study
This study investigates the intra-section association of micro-calcifications with markers for atherosclerosis in randomly chosen section areas of human coronary arteries. Moreover, the possible causal relationship between calcifying vascular smooth muscle cells and inflammation was explored in vitro.
Technical Approach
To gain insights into the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, we performed analysis of the distribution of micro-calcifications using a 3-MeV proton microbeam. Additionally, we performed systematic analyses of 30 to 40 regions of 12 coronary sections obtained from 6 patients including histology and immuno-histochemistry. Section areas were classified according to CD68 positivity. In vitro experiments using human vascular smooth muscle cells (hVSMCs) were performed to evaluate causal relationships between calcification and inflammation.
Results
From each section multiple areas were randomly chosen and subsequently analyzed. Depositions of calcium crystals at the micrometer scale were already observed in areas with early pre-atheroma type I lesions. Micro-calcifications were initiated at the elastica interna concomitantly with upregulation of the uncarboxylated form of matrix Gla-protein (ucMGP). Both the amount of calcium crystals and ucMGP staining increased from type I to IV atherosclerotic lesions. Osteochondrogenic markers BMP-2 and osteocalcin were only significantly increased in type IV atheroma lesions, and at this stage correlated with the degree of calcification. From atheroma area type III onwards a considerable number of CD68 positive cells were observed in combination with calcification, suggesting a pro-inflammatory effect of micro-calcifications. In vitro, invasion assays revealed chemoattractant properties of cell-culture medium of calcifying vascular smooth muscle cells towards THP-1 cells, which implies pro-inflammatory effect of calcium deposits. Additionally, calcifying hVSMCs revealed a pro-inflammatory profile as compared to non-calcifying hVSMCs.
Conclusion
Our data indicate that calcification of VSMCs is one of the earliest events in the genesis of atherosclerosis, which strongly correlates with ucMGP staining. Our findings suggest that loss of calcification inhibitors and/or failure of inhibitory capacity is causative for the early precipitation of calcium, with concomitant increased inflammation followed by osteochondrogenic transdifferentiation of VSMCs.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0142335
PMCID: PMC4640818  PMID: 26555788
11.  Menaquinone-7 Supplementation to Reduce Vascular Calcification in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease: Rationale and Study Protocol (VitaK-CAC Trial) 
Nutrients  2015;7(11):8905-8915.
Coronary artery calcification (CAC) develops early in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and is a strong and independent predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Arterial calcification is caused by an imbalance in calcification regulatory mechanisms. An important inhibitor of calcification is vitamin K-dependent matrix Gla protein (MGP). Both preclinical and clinical studies have shown that inhibition of the vitamin K-cycle by vitamin K antagonists (VKA) results in elevated uncarboxylated MGP (ucMGP) and subsequently in extensive arterial calcification. This led us to hypothesize that vitamin K supplementation may slow down the progression of calcification. To test this, we designed the VitaK-CAC trial which analyses effects of menaquinone-7 (MK-7) supplementation on progression of CAC. The trial is a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial including patients with coronary artery disease (CAD). Patients with a baseline Agatston CAC-score between 50 and 400 will be randomized to an intervention-group (360 microgram MK-7) or a placebo group. Treatment duration will be 24 months. The primary endpoint is the difference in CAC-score progression between both groups. Secondary endpoints include changes in arterial structure and function, and associations with biomarkers. We hypothesize that treatment with MK-7 will slow down or arrest the progression of CAC and that this trial may lead to a treatment option for vascular calcification and subsequent CVD.
doi:10.3390/nu7115443
PMCID: PMC4663571  PMID: 26516910
vascular calcification; coronary artery calcification; matrix gla protein; vitamin K2; menaquinone-7
12.  Yogurt drink fortified with menaquinone-7 improves vitamin K status in a healthy population 
Population-based studies have shown an inverse association between dietary menaquinones (MK-n, vitamin K2) intake, coronary calcification and CHD risk, suggesting a potential role of vitamin K in vascular health. To date, the effects of increased menaquinone intake on (markers of) vascular health have been investigated using predominantly food supplements. Dairy products contain many essential nutrients and can serve as a good matrix for food fortification in order to support health. We were therefore interested to study the effects of a menaquinone-fortified yogurt drink (menaquinone as menaquinone-7 (MK-7); 28 µg MK-7/yogurt drink) on vitamin K status and markers of vascular health. The yogurt drink was also fortified with n-3 PUFA, vitamin D, vitamin C, Ca and Mg to support vascular and/or general health. Healthy men (n 32) and postmenopausal women (n 28) with a mean age of 56 (sd 5) years received either basic or fortified yogurt drink twice per d for 12 weeks. MK-7 was efficiently absorbed from the fortified yogurt drink. Levels of circulating MK-7 were significantly increased from 0·28 to 1·94 ng/ml. In accordance, intake of the fortified yogurt drink improved vitamin K status, as measured by significant decreases in uncarboxylated osteocalcin and desphospho-uncarboxylated matrix Gla-protein. No effects were, however, seen on markers of inflammation, endothelial dysfunction and lipid metabolism. In summary, consumption of a yogurt drink fortified with low doses of among others MK-7 for 3 months significantly improved vitamin K status in a healthy population.
doi:10.1017/jns.2015.25
PMCID: PMC4611080  PMID: 26495126
Food fortification; Vitamin K status; n-3 PUFA; Vascular health; 25-OH-D, 25-hydroxyvitamin D; cOC, carboxylated osteocalcin; dp-cMGP, desphospho-carboxylated matrix Gla-protein; dp-ucMGP, desphospho-uncarboxylated matrix Gla-protein; MGP, matrix Gla-protein; MK-n, menaquinone-n; OC, osteocalcin; ucOC, uncarboxylated osteocalcin; VCAM, vascular cell adhesion molecule
13.  Vitamin K Status and Vascular Calcification: Evidence from Observational and Clinical Studies12 
Advances in Nutrition  2012;3(2):158-165.
Vascular calcification occurs when calcium accumulates in the intima (associated with atherosclerosis) and/or media layers of the vessel wall. Coronary artery calcification (CAC) reflects the calcium burden within the intima and media of the coronary arteries. In population-based studies, CAC independently predicts cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality. A preventive role for vitamin K in vascular calcification has been proposed based on its role in activating matrix Gla protein (MGP), a calcification inhibitor that is expressed in vascular tissue. Although animal and in vitro data support this role of vitamin K, overall data from human studies are inconsistent. The majority of population-based studies have relied on vitamin K intake to measure status. Phylloquinone is the primary dietary form of vitamin K and available supplementation trials, albeit limited, suggest phylloquinone supplementation is relevant to CAC. Yet observational studies have found higher dietary menaquinone, but not phylloquinone, to be associated with less calcification. Vascular calcification is highly prevalent in certain patient populations, especially in those with chronic kidney disease (CKD), and it is plausible vitamin K may contribute to reducing vascular calcification in patients at higher risk. Subclinical vitamin K deficiency has been reported in CKD patients, but studies linking vitamin K status to calcification outcomes in CKD are needed to clarify whether or not improving vitamin K status is associated with improved vascular health in CKD. This review summarizes the available evidence of vitamin K and vascular calcification in population-based studies and clinic-based studies, with a specific focus on CKD patients.
doi:10.3945/an.111.001644
PMCID: PMC3648716  PMID: 22516723
14.  Matrix Gla Protein Binds to Fibronectin and Enhances Cell Attachment and Spreading on Fibronectin 
Background. Matrix Gla protein (MGP) is a vitamin K-dependent, extracellular matrix protein. MGP is a calcification inhibitor of arteries and cartilage. However MGP is synthesized in many tissues and is especially enriched in embryonic tissues and in cancer cells. The presence of MGP in those instances does not correlate well with the calcification inhibitory role. This study explores a potential mechanism for MGP to bind to matrix proteins and alter cell matrix interactions. Methods. To determine whether MGP influences cell behavior through interaction with fibronectin, we studied MGP binding to fibronectin, the effect of MGP on fibronectin mediated cell attachment and spreading and immunolocalized MGP and fibronectin. Results. First, MGP binds to fibronectin. The binding site for MGP is in a specific fibronectin fragment, called III1-C or anastellin. The binding site for fibronectin is in a MGP C-terminal peptide comprising amino acids 61–77. Second, MGP enhances cell attachment and cell spreading on fibronectin. MGP alone does not promote cell adhesion. Third, MGP is present in fibronectin-rich regions of tissue sections. Conclusions. MGP binds to fibronectin. The presence of MGP increased cell-fibronectin interactions.
doi:10.1155/2014/807013
PMCID: PMC4158265  PMID: 25210519
15.  Inhibition of Bone Morphogenetic Protein Signal Transduction Prevents the Medial Vascular Calcification Associated with Matrix Gla Protein Deficiency 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(1):e0117098.
Objective
Matrix Gla protein (MGP) is reported to inhibit bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signal transduction. MGP deficiency is associated with medial calcification of the arterial wall, in a process that involves both osteogenic transdifferentiation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) and mesenchymal transition of endothelial cells (EndMT). In this study, we investigated the contribution of BMP signal transduction to the medial calcification that develops in MGP-deficient mice.
Approach and Results
MGP-deficient mice (MGP-/-) were treated with one of two BMP signaling inhibitors, LDN-193189 or ALK3-Fc, beginning one day after birth. Aortic calcification was assessed in 28-day-old mice by measuring the uptake of a fluorescent bisphosphonate probe and by staining tissue sections with Alizarin red. Aortic calcification was 80% less in MGP-/- mice treated with LDN-193189 or ALK3-Fc compared with vehicle-treated control animals (P<0.001 for both). LDN-193189-treated MGP-/- mice survived longer than vehicle-treated MGP-/- mice. Levels of phosphorylated Smad1/5 and Id1 mRNA (markers of BMP signaling) did not differ in the aortas from MGP-/- and wild-type mice. Markers of EndMT and osteogenesis were increased in MGP-/- aortas, an effect that was prevented by LDN-193189. Calcification of isolated VSMCs was also inhibited by LDN-193189.
Conclusions
Inhibition of BMP signaling leads to reduced vascular calcification and improved survival in MGP-/- mice. The EndMT and osteogenic transdifferentiation associated with MGP deficiency is dependent upon BMP signaling. These results suggest that BMP signal transduction has critical roles in the development of vascular calcification in MGP-deficient mice.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117098
PMCID: PMC4300181  PMID: 25603410
16.  High-Dose Menaquinone-7 Supplementation Reduces Cardiovascular Calcification in a Murine Model of Extraosseous Calcification 
Nutrients  2015;7(8):6991-7011.
Cardiovascular calcification is prevalent in the aging population and in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and diabetes mellitus, giving rise to substantial morbidity and mortality. Vitamin K-dependent matrix Gla-protein (MGP) is an important inhibitor of calcification. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of high-dose menaquinone-7 (MK-7) supplementation (100 µg/g diet) on the development of extraosseous calcification in a murine model. Calcification was induced by 5/6 nephrectomy combined with high phosphate diet in rats. Sham operated animals served as controls. Animals received high or low MK-7 diets for 12 weeks. We assessed vital parameters, serum chemistry, creatinine clearance, and cardiac function. CKD provoked increased aortic (1.3 fold; p < 0.05) and myocardial (2.4 fold; p < 0.05) calcification in line with increased alkaline phosphatase levels (2.2 fold; p < 0.01). MK-7 supplementation inhibited cardiovascular calcification and decreased aortic alkaline phosphatase tissue concentrations. Furthermore, MK-7 supplementation increased aortic MGP messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) expression (10-fold; p < 0.05). CKD-induced arterial hypertension with secondary myocardial hypertrophy and increased elastic fiber breaking points in the arterial tunica media did not change with MK-7 supplementation. Our results show that high-dose MK-7 supplementation inhibits the development of cardiovascular calcification. The protective effect of MK-7 may be related to the inhibition of secondary mineralization of damaged vascular structures.
doi:10.3390/nu7085318
PMCID: PMC4555157  PMID: 26295257
menaquinone-7; vitamin K2; cardiovascular calcification; matrix Gla-protein; chronic kidney disease
17.  Proper Calcium Use: Vitamin K2 as a Promoter of Bone and Cardiovascular Health 
Inadequate calcium intake can lead to decreased bone mineral density, which can increase the risk of bone fractures. Supplemental calcium promotes bone mineral density and strength and can prevent osteoporosis. Recent scientific evidence, however, suggests that elevated consumption of calcium supplements may raise the risk for heart disease and can be connected with accelerated deposit of calcium in blood-vessel walls and soft tissues. In contrast, vitamin K2 is associated with the inhibition of arterial calcification and arterial stiffening. An adequate intake of vitamin K2 has been shown to lower the risk of vascular damage because it activates matrix GLA protein (MGP), which inhibits the deposits of calcium on the walls. Vitamin K, particularly as vitamin K2, is nearly nonexistent in junk food, with little being consumed even in a healthy Western diet. Vitamin K deficiency results in inadequate activation of MGP, which greatly impairs the process of calcium removal and increases the risk of calcification of the blood vessels. An increased intake of vitamin K2 could be a means of lowering calcium-associated health risks.
PMCID: PMC4566462  PMID: 26770129
18.  Matrix Gla Protein Is Associated With Risk Factors for Atherosclerosis but not With Coronary Artery Calcification 
Objectives
Atherosclerotic coronary artery calcification (CAC) is associated with increased coronary heart disease (CHD) risk. Matrix Gla protein (MGP) is an inhibitor of calcification in vivo. However, little is known regarding the distribution of circulating MGP and its associations with CHD risk factors or with CAC in humans.
Methods and Results
Serum MGP concentrations were determined in 2 independent populations of men and women free of clinically apparent cardiovascular disease: study A, n=316, mean age 58 years, and study B, n=452, mean age 68 years. CAC was determined by computed tomography. Mean MGP concentrations were 98.4 and 198 ng/mL in men, and 97.4 and 201 ng/mL in women, in study A and study B, respectively. In both cohorts, MGP levels were higher with increasing age. In age-adjusted analyses, there was an association of circulating MGP with increasing Framingham CHD risk score (in study A, P=0.003 in men and P=0.016 in women, respectively; in study B, a nonsignificant increase in men and P=0.05 in women, respectively). Significant associations of circulating MGP with high-density lipoprotein and other individual CHD risk factors were also noted in both cohorts. There were no consistent associations between MGP and CAC after adjustment for CHD risk score in the 2 cohorts.
Conclusions
MGP is associated with individual CHD risk factors and the Framingham CHD risk score in men and women free of clinically apparent CHD. The relation of MGP with CAC deserves further study in larger populations.
doi:10.1161/01.ATV.0000245793.83158.06
PMCID: PMC2562549  PMID: 16973975
atherosclerosis; coronary artery calcification; coronary risk factors; matrix Gla protein
19.  Matrix Gla Protein Is a Developmental Regulator of Chondrocyte Mineralization And, When Constitutively Expressed, Blocks Endochondral and Intramembranous Ossification in the Limb 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1999;147(5):1097-1108.
Matrix GLA protein (MGP), a γ-carboxyglutamic acid (GLA)–rich, vitamin K–dependent and apatite-binding protein, is a regulator of hypertrophic cartilage mineralization during development. However, MGP is produced by both hypertrophic and immature chondrocytes, suggesting that MGP's role in mineralization is cell stage–dependent, and that MGP may have other roles in immature cells. It is also unclear whether MGP regulates the quantity of mineral or mineral nature and quality as well. To address these issues, we determined the effects of manipulations of MGP synthesis and expression in (a) immature and hypertrophic chondrocyte cultures and (b) the chick limb bud in vivo. The two chondrocyte cultures displayed comparable levels of MGP gene expression. Yet, treatment with warfarin, a γ-carboxylase inhibitor and vitamin K antagonist, triggered mineralization in hypertrophic but not immature cultures. Warfarin effects on mineralization were highly selective, were accompanied by no appreciable changes in MGP expression, alkaline phosphatase activity, or cell number, and were counteracted by vitamin K cotreatment. Scanning electron microscopy, x-ray microanalysis, and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy revealed that mineral forming in control and warfarin-treated hypertrophic cell cultures was similar and represented stoichiometric apatite. Virally driven MGP overexpression in cultured chondrocytes greatly decreased mineralization. Surprisingly, MGP overexpression in the developing limb not only inhibited cartilage mineralization, but also delayed chondrocyte maturation and blocked endochondral ossification and formation of a diaphyseal intramembranous bone collar. The results show that MGP is a powerful but developmentally regulated inhibitor of cartilage mineralization, controls mineral quantity but not type, and appears to have a previously unsuspected role in regulating chondrocyte maturation and ossification processes.
PMCID: PMC2169349  PMID: 10579728
chondrocytes; matrix GLA protein; mineralization; ossification; limb development
20.  EVIDENCE FOR A CALCIFICATION PROCESS IN THE TRABECULAR MESHWORK 
Experimental eye research  2008;88(4):738-746.
The human trabecular meshwork (TM) expresses many genes that have been associated with physiological (bone, cartilage, teeth) and pathological (vascular systems, kidney) calcification. In particular, the TM highly expresses the inhibitor of calcification Matrix Gla (MGP) gene, which encodes a vitamin K-dependent protein that requires post-translational activation to inhibit the formation of calcium precipitates. TM cells have high activity of the activating γ-carboxylase enzyme and produce active MGP. Silencing MGP increases the activity of alkaline phosphatase (ALP), an enzyme of the matrix vesicles and marker of calcification. Overexpressing MGP reduces the ALP activity induced by bone morphogenetic 2 (BMP2), a potent inducer of calcification. In this review we gathered evidence for the existence of a mineralization process in the TM. We selected twenty regulatory calcification genes, reviewed their functions in their original tissues and looked at their relative abundance in the TM by heat maps derived from existing microarrays. Although results are not yet fully conclusive and more experiments are needed, examining TM expression in the light of the calcification literature brings up many similarities. One such parallel is the role of mechanical forces in bone induction and the high levels of mineralization inhibitors found in the constantly mechanically stressed TM. During the next few years, examination of other calcification-related regulatory genes and pathways, as well as morphological examination of knockout animals would help elucidate the relevance of a calcification process to TM overall function.
doi:10.1016/j.exer.2008.11.027
PMCID: PMC2670947  PMID: 19084518
Human trabecular meshwork; Perfused anterior segments, primary HTM cells, Calcification genes; Microarrays; Heat maps
21.  Clinical Utility of Vitamin D Testing 
Executive Summary
This report from the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) was intended to evaluate the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in average risk Canadians and in those with kidney disease. As a separate analysis, this report also includes a systematic literature review of the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in these two subgroups.
This evaluation did not set out to determine the serum vitamin D thresholds that might apply to non-bone health outcomes. For bone health outcomes, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found to support a target serum level above 50 nmol/L. Similarly, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found to support vitamin D’s effects in non-bone health outcomes, other than falls.
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a lipid soluble vitamin that acts as a hormone. It stimulates intestinal calcium absorption and is important in maintaining adequate phosphate levels for bone mineralization, bone growth, and remodelling. It’s also believed to be involved in the regulation of cell growth proliferation and apoptosis (programmed cell death), as well as modulation of the immune system and other functions. Alone or in combination with calcium, Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce the risk of fractures in elderly men (≥ 65 years), postmenopausal women, and the risk of falls in community-dwelling seniors. However, in a comprehensive systematic review, inconsistent results were found concerning the effects of vitamin D in conditions such as cancer, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular disease. In fact, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found concerning the effects of vitamin D in such non-bone health outcomes. Given the uncertainties surrounding the effects of vitamin D in non-bone health related outcomes, it was decided that this evaluation should focus on falls and the effects of vitamin D in bone health and exclusively within average-risk individuals and patients with kidney disease.
Synthesis of vitamin D occurs naturally in the skin through exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sunlight, but it can also be obtained from dietary sources including fortified foods, and supplements. Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks, fish liver oil, and some types of mushrooms. Since it is usually difficult to obtain sufficient vitamin D from non-fortified foods, either due to low content or infrequent use, most vitamin D is obtained from fortified foods, exposure to sunlight, and supplements.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Vitamin D deficiency may lead to rickets in infants and osteomalacia in adults. Factors believed to be associated with vitamin D deficiency include:
darker skin pigmentation,
winter season,
living at higher latitudes,
skin coverage,
kidney disease,
malabsorption syndromes such as Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and
genetic factors.
Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency due to either renal losses or decreased synthesis of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D.
Health Canada currently recommends that, until the daily recommended intakes (DRI) for vitamin D are updated, Canada’s Food Guide (Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide) should be followed with respect to vitamin D intake. Issued in 2007, the Guide recommends that Canadians consume two cups (500 ml) of fortified milk or fortified soy beverages daily in order to obtain a daily intake of 200 IU. In addition, men and women over the age of 50 should take 400 IU of vitamin D supplements daily. Additional recommendations were made for breastfed infants.
A Canadian survey evaluated the median vitamin D intake derived from diet alone (excluding supplements) among 35,000 Canadians, 10,900 of which were from Ontario. Among Ontarian males ages 9 and up, the median daily dietary vitamin D intake ranged between 196 IU and 272 IU per day. Among females, it varied from 152 IU to 196 IU per day. In boys and girls ages 1 to 3, the median daily dietary vitamin D intake was 248 IU, while among those 4 to 8 years it was 224 IU.
Vitamin D Testing
Two laboratory tests for vitamin D are available, 25-hydroxy vitamin D, referred to as 25(OH)D, and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. Vitamin D status is assessed by measuring the serum 25(OH)D levels, which can be assayed using radioimmunoassays, competitive protein-binding assays (CPBA), high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). These may yield different results with inter-assay variation reaching up to 25% (at lower serum levels) and intra-assay variation reaching 10%.
The optimal serum concentration of vitamin D has not been established and it may change across different stages of life. Similarly, there is currently no consensus on target serum vitamin D levels. There does, however, appear to be a consensus on the definition of vitamin D deficiency at 25(OH)D < 25 nmol/l, which is based on the risk of diseases such as rickets and osteomalacia. Higher target serum levels have also been proposed based on subclinical endpoints such as parathyroid hormone (PTH). Therefore, in this report, two conservative target serum levels have been adopted, 25 nmol/L (based on the risk of rickets and osteomalacia), and 40 to 50 nmol/L (based on vitamin D’s interaction with PTH).
Ontario Context
Volume & Cost
The volume of vitamin D tests done in Ontario has been increasing over the past 5 years with a steep increase of 169,000 tests in 2007 to more than 393,400 tests in 2008. The number of tests continues to rise with the projected number of tests for 2009 exceeding 731,000. According to the Ontario Schedule of Benefits, the billing cost of each test is $51.7 for 25(OH)D (L606, 100 LMS units, $0.517/unit) and $77.6 for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (L605, 150 LMS units, $0.517/unit). Province wide, the total annual cost of vitamin D testing has increased from approximately $1.7M in 2004 to over $21.0M in 2008. The projected annual cost for 2009 is approximately $38.8M.
Evidence-Based Analysis
The objective of this report is to evaluate the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in the average risk population and in those with kidney disease. As a separate analysis, the report also sought to evaluate the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada. The specific research questions addressed were thus:
What is the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in the average risk population and in subjects with kidney disease?
What is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the average risk population in Canada?
What is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with kidney disease in Canada?
Clinical utility was defined as the ability to improve bone health outcomes with the focus on the average risk population (excluding those with osteoporosis) and patients with kidney disease.
Literature Search
A literature search was performed on July 17th, 2009 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1, 1998 until July 17th, 2009. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist, then a group of epidemiologists until consensus was established. The quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
Observational studies that evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada in the population of interest were included based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria listed below. The baseline values were used in this report in the case of interventional studies that evaluated the effect of vitamin D intake on serum levels. Studies published in grey literature were included if no studies published in the peer-reviewed literature were identified for specific outcomes or subgroups.
Considering that vitamin D status may be affected by factors such as latitude, sun exposure, food fortification, among others, the search focused on prevalence studies published in Canada. In cases where no Canadian prevalence studies were identified, the decision was made to include studies from the United States, given the similar policies in vitamin D food fortification and recommended daily intake.
Inclusion Criteria
Studies published in English
Publications that reported the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada
Studies that included subjects from the general population or with kidney disease
Studies in children or adults
Studies published between January 1998 and July 17th 2009
Exclusion Criteria
Studies that included subjects defined according to a specific disease other than kidney disease
Letters, comments, and editorials
Studies that measured the serum vitamin D levels but did not report the percentage of subjects with serum levels below a given threshold
Outcomes of Interest
Prevalence of serum vitamin D less than 25 nmol/L
Prevalence of serum vitamin D less than 40 to 50 nmol/L
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D was the metabolite used to assess vitamin D status. Results from adult and children studies were reported separately. Subgroup analyses according to factors that affect serum vitamin D levels (e.g., seasonal effects, skin pigmentation, and vitamin D intake) were reported if enough information was provided in the studies
Quality of Evidence
The quality of the prevalence studies was based on the method of subject recruitment and sampling, possibility of selection bias, and generalizability to the source population. The overall quality of the trials was examined according to the GRADE Working Group criteria.
Summary of Findings
Fourteen prevalence studies examining Canadian adults and children met the eligibility criteria. With the exception of one longitudinal study, the studies had a cross-sectional design. Two studies were conducted among Canadian adults with renal disease but none studied Canadian children with renal disease (though three such US studies were included). No systematic reviews or health technology assessments that evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada were identified. Two studies were published in grey literature, consisting of a Canadian survey designed to measure serum vitamin D levels and a study in infants presented as an abstract at a conference. Also included were the results of vitamin D tests performed in community laboratories in Ontario between October 2008 and September 2009 (provided by the Ontario Association of Medical Laboratories).
Different threshold levels were used in the studies, thus we reported the percentage of subjects with serum levels of between 25 and 30 nmol/L and between 37.5 and 50 nmol/L. Some studies stratified the results according to factors affecting vitamin D status and two used multivariate models to investigate the effects of these characteristics (including age, season, BMI, vitamin D intake, skin pigmentation, and season) on serum 25(OH)D levels. It’s unclear, however, if these studies were adequately powered for these subgroup analyses.
Study participants generally consisted of healthy, community-dwelling subjects and most excluded individuals with conditions or medications that alter vitamin D or bone metabolism, such as kidney or liver disease. Although the studies were conducted in different parts of Canada, fewer were performed in Northern latitudes, i.e. above 53°N, which is equivalent to the city of Edmonton.
Adults
Serum vitamin D levels of < 25 to 30 nmol/L were observed in 0% to 25.5% of the subjects included in five studies; the weighted average was 3.8% (95% CI: 3.0, 4.6). The preliminary results of the Canadian survey showed that approximately 5% of the subjects had serum levels below 29.5 nmol/L. The results of over 600,000 vitamin D tests performed in Ontarian community laboratories between October 2008 and September 2009 showed that 2.6% of adults (> 18 years) had serum levels < 25 nmol/L.
The prevalence of serum vitamin D levels below 37.5-50 nmol/L reported among studies varied widely, ranging from 8% to 73.6% with a weighted average of 22.5%. The preliminary results of the CHMS survey showed that between 10% and 25% of subjects had serum levels below 37 to 48 nmol/L. The results of the vitamin D tests performed in community laboratories showed that 10% to 25% of the individuals had serum levels between 39 and 50 nmol/L.
In an attempt to explain this inter-study variation, the study results were stratified according to factors affecting serum vitamin D levels, as summarized below. These results should be interpreted with caution as none were adjusted for other potential confounders. Adequately powered multivariate analyses would be necessary to determine the contribution of risk factors to lower serum 25(OH)D levels.
Seasonal variation
Three adult studies evaluating serum vitamin D levels in different seasons observed a trend towards a higher prevalence of serum levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L during the winter and spring months, specifically 21% to 39%, compared to 8% to 14% in the summer. The weighted average was 23.6% over the winter/spring months and 9.6% over summer. The difference between the seasons was not statistically significant in one study and not reported in the other two studies.
Skin Pigmentation
Four studies observed a trend toward a higher prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L in subjects with darker skin pigmentation compared to those with lighter skin pigmentation, with weighted averages of 46.8% among adults with darker skin colour and 15.9% among those with fairer skin.
Vitamin D intake and serum levels
Four adult studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels according to vitamin D intake and showed an overall trend toward a lower prevalence of serum levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L with higher levels of vitamin D intake. One study observed a dose-response relationship between higher vitamin D intake from supplements, diet (milk), and sun exposure (results not adjusted for other variables). It was observed that subjects taking 50 to 400 IU or > 400 IU of vitamin D per day had a 6% and 3% prevalence of serum vitamin D level < 40 nmol/L, respectively, versus 29% in subjects not on vitamin D supplementation. Similarly, among subjects drinking one or two glasses of milk per day, the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 40 nmol/L was found to be 15%, versus 6% in those who drink more than two glasses of milk per day and 21% among those who do not drink milk. On the other hand, one study observed little variation in serum vitamin D levels during winter according to milk intake, with the proportion of subjects exhibiting vitamin D levels of < 40 nmol/L being 21% among those drinking 0-2 glasses per day, 26% among those drinking > 2 glasses, and 20% among non-milk drinkers.
The overall quality of evidence for the studies conducted among adults was deemed to be low, although it was considered moderate for the subgroups of skin pigmentation and seasonal variation.
Newborn, Children and Adolescents
Five Canadian studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels in newborns, children, and adolescents. In four of these, it was found that between 0 and 36% of children exhibited deficiency across age groups with a weighted average of 6.4%. The results of over 28,000 vitamin D tests performed in children 0 to 18 years old in Ontario laboratories (Oct. 2008 to Sept. 2009) showed that 4.4% had serum levels of < 25 nmol/L.
According to two studies, 32% of infants 24 to 30 months old and 35.3% of newborns had serum vitamin D levels of < 50 nmol/L. Two studies of children 2 to 16 years old reported that 24.5% and 34% had serum vitamin D levels below 37.5 to 40 nmol/L. In both studies, older children exhibited a higher prevalence than younger children, with weighted averages 34.4% and 10.3%, respectively. The overall weighted average of the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L among pediatric studies was 25.8%. The preliminary results of the Canadian survey showed that between 10% and 25% of subjects between 6 and 11 years (N= 435) had serum levels below 50 nmol/L, while for those 12 to 19 years, 25% to 50% exhibited serum vitamin D levels below 50 nmol/L.
The effects of season, skin pigmentation, and vitamin D intake were not explored in Canadian pediatric studies. A Canadian surveillance study did, however, report 104 confirmed cases1 (2.9 cases per 100,000 children) of vitamin D-deficient rickets among Canadian children age 1 to 18 between 2002 and 2004, 57 (55%) of which from Ontario. The highest incidence occurred among children living in the North, i.e., the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. In 92 (89%) cases, skin pigmentation was categorized as intermediate to dark, 98 (94%) had been breastfed, and 25 (24%) were offspring of immigrants to Canada. There were no cases of rickets in children receiving ≥ 400 IU VD supplementation/day.
Overall, the quality of evidence of the studies of children was considered very low.
Kidney Disease
Adults
Two studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels in Canadian adults with kidney disease. The first included 128 patients with chronic kidney disease stages 3 to 5, 38% of which had serum vitamin D levels of < 37.5 nmol/L (measured between April and July). This is higher than what was reported in Canadian studies of the general population during the summer months (i.e. between 8% and 14%). In the second, which examined 419 subjects who had received a renal transplantation (mean time since transplantation: 7.2 ± 6.4 years), the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 40 nmol/L was 27.3%. The authors concluded that the prevalence observed in the study population was similar to what is expected in the general population.
Children
No studies evaluating serum vitamin D levels in Canadian pediatric patients with kidney disease could be identified, although three such US studies among children with chronic kidney disease stages 1 to 5 were. The mean age varied between 10.7 and 12.5 years in two studies but was not reported in the third. Across all three studies, the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels below the range of 37.5 to 50 nmol/L varied between 21% and 39%, which is not considerably different from what was observed in studies of healthy Canadian children (24% to 35%).
Overall, the quality of evidence in adults and children with kidney disease was considered very low.
Clinical Utility of Vitamin D Testing
A high quality comprehensive systematic review published in August 2007 evaluated the association between serum vitamin D levels and different bone health outcomes in different age groups. A total of 72 studies were included. The authors observed that there was a trend towards improvement in some bone health outcomes with higher serum vitamin D levels. Nevertheless, precise thresholds for improved bone health outcomes could not be defined across age groups. Further, no new studies on the association were identified during an updated systematic review on vitamin D published in July 2009.
With regards to non-bone health outcomes, there is no high or even moderate quality evidence that supports the effectiveness of vitamin D in outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular outcomes, and all-cause mortality. Even if there is any residual uncertainty, there is no evidence that testing vitamin D levels encourages adherence to Health Canada’s guidelines for vitamin D intake. A normal serum vitamin D threshold required to prevent non-bone health related conditions cannot be resolved until a causal effect or correlation has been demonstrated between vitamin D levels and these conditions. This is as an ongoing research issue around which there is currently too much uncertainty to base any conclusions that would support routine vitamin D testing.
For patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), there is again no high or moderate quality evidence supporting improved outcomes through the use of calcitriol or vitamin D analogs. In the absence of such data, the authors of the guidelines for CKD patients consider it best practice to maintain serum calcium and phosphate at normal levels, while supplementation with active vitamin D should be considered if serum PTH levels are elevated. As previously stated, the authors of guidelines for CKD patients believe that there is not enough evidence to support routine vitamin D [25(OH)D] testing. According to what is stated in the guidelines, decisions regarding the commencement or discontinuation of treatment with calcitriol or vitamin D analogs should be based on serum PTH, calcium, and phosphate levels.
Limitations associated with the evidence of vitamin D testing include ambiguities in the definition of an ‘adequate threshold level’ and both inter- and intra- assay variability. The MAS considers both the lack of a consensus on the target serum vitamin D levels and assay limitations directly affect and undermine the clinical utility of testing. The evidence supporting the clinical utility of vitamin D testing is thus considered to be of very low quality.
Daily vitamin D intake, either through diet or supplementation, should follow Health Canada’s recommendations for healthy individuals of different age groups. For those with medical conditions such as renal disease, liver disease, and malabsorption syndromes, and for those taking medications that may affect vitamin D absorption/metabolism, physician guidance should be followed with respect to both vitamin D testing and supplementation.
Conclusions
Studies indicate that vitamin D, alone or in combination with calcium, may decrease the risk of fractures and falls among older adults.
There is no high or moderate quality evidence to support the effectiveness of vitamin D in other outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular outcomes, and all-cause mortality.
Studies suggest that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canadian adults and children is relatively low (approximately 5%), and between 10% and 25% have serum levels below 40 to 50 nmol/L (based on very low to low grade evidence).
Given the limitations associated with serum vitamin D measurement, ambiguities in the definition of a ‘target serum level’, and the availability of clear guidelines on vitamin D supplementation from Health Canada, vitamin D testing is not warranted for the average risk population.
Health Canada has issued recommendations regarding the adequate daily intake of vitamin D, but current studies suggest that the mean dietary intake is below these recommendations. Accordingly, Health Canada’s guidelines and recommendations should be promoted.
Based on a moderate level of evidence, individuals with darker skin pigmentation appear to have a higher risk of low serum vitamin D levels than those with lighter skin pigmentation and therefore may need to be specially targeted with respect to optimum vitamin D intake. The cause-effect of this association is currently unclear.
Individuals with medical conditions such as renal and liver disease, osteoporosis, and malabsorption syndromes, as well as those taking medications that may affect vitamin D absorption/metabolism, should follow their physician’s guidance concerning both vitamin D testing and supplementation.
PMCID: PMC3377517  PMID: 23074397
22.  Matrix GLA Protein Function in Human Trabecular Meshwork Cells: Inhibition of BMP2-Induced Calcification Process 
Purpose
The matrix GLA (MGP) gene has been found to be among the 10 most highly expressed genes in the human trabecular meshwork (TM), and its expression is affected by conditions associated with glaucoma. Because MGP protein has been shown to play a key role in inhibiting calcification in cartilage and arterial vessels, MGP’s function in human TM was investigated.
Methods
Perfused TM tissue and primary human TM (HTM) cells originated from donors of nonglaucomatous eyes. MGP mRNA was assayed by relative quantitative and real-time PCR. AdhMGP recombinant adenovirus was generated by bacterial transposition. Western blot analyses were cross-reacted with MGP N-terminal- and conformational-specific antibodies. MGP/ BMP2 colocalization was analyzed by confocal microscopy. γ-Carboxylation activity was measured by incorporation of 14CO2into FLEEL synthetic peptide. Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity was used as a marker of osteogenic differentiation and a calcification precursor. Calcification was assessed by measuring direct calcium (o-cresolphthalein). Normalization was conducted with a telomerase probe (genomic DNA).
Results
HTM cells contained high levels of γ-carboxylase activity and were able to convert MGP to its active conformation. Overexpression of MGP in HTM cells reduced ALP activity in a model of BMP2-induced osteogenesis. MGP colocalized intra-cellularly with BMP2. HTM cells aged in culture exhibited increased calcium content, increased ALP, decreased normalized MGP expression and lower γ-carboxylase activity.
Conclusions
MGP protein is active and functions as an inhibitor of BMP2-induced ALP activity in the HTM cells. The human TM may undergo a calcification process with age. Inhibition of the calcification mechanism mediated by MGP could be used to regulate resistance and elevated IOP.
doi:10.1167/iovs.05-1106
PMCID: PMC1592516  PMID: 16505034
23.  Vitamin K does not prevent soft tissue mineralization in a mouse model of pseudoxanthoma elasticum 
Cell Cycle  2011;10(11):1810-1820.
Pseudoxanthoma elasticum (PXE) is a heritable disease characterized by calcified elastic fibers in cutaneous, ocular and vascular tissues. PXE is caused by mutations in ABCC6, which encodes a protein of the ATP-driven organic anion transporter family. The inability of this transporter to secrete its substrate into the circulation is the likely cause of PXE. Vitamin K plays a role in the regulation of mineralization processes as a co-factor in the carboxylation of calcification inhibitors such as Matrix Gla Protein (MGP). Vitamin K precursor or a conjugated form has been proposed as potential substrate(s) for ABCC6. We investigated whether an enriched diet of vitamin K1 or vitamin K2 (MK4) could stop or slow the disease progression in Abcc6-/- mice. Abcc6-/- mice were placed on a diet of either vitamin K1 or MK4 at 5 or 100 mg/kg at prenatal, 3 weeks or 3 months of age. Disease progression was quantified by measuring the calcium content of one side of the mouse muzzle skin and histological staining for calcium of the opposing side. Raising the vitamin K1 or MK4 content of the diet increased the concentration of circulating MK4 in the serum. However, this increase did not significantly affect the MGP carboxylation status or reduce its abnormal abundance, the total calcium content or the pathologic calcification in the whiskers of the 3 treatment groups compared to controls. Our findings showed that raising the dietary intake of vitamin K1 or MK4 was not beneficial in the treatment of PXE and suggested that the availability of vitamin K may not be a limiting factor in this pathology.
doi:10.4161/cc.10.11.15681
PMCID: PMC3142464  PMID: 21597330
pseudoxanthoma elasticum; vitamin K; mineralization; Abcc6; mouse
24.  Matrix Gla protein deficiency causes arteriovenous malformations in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2011;121(8):2993-3004.
Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) in organs, such as the lungs, intestine, and brain, are characteristic of hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT), a disease caused by mutations in activin-like kinase receptor 1 (ALK1), which is an essential receptor in angiogenesis, or endoglin. Matrix Gla protein (MGP) is an antagonist of BMPs that is highly expressed in lungs and kidneys and is regulated by ALK1. The objective of this study was to determine the role of MGP in the vasculature of the lungs and kidneys. We found that Mgp gene deletion in mice caused striking AVMs in lungs and kidneys, where overall small organ size contrasted with greatly increased vascularization. Mechanistically, MGP deficiency increased BMP activity in lungs. In cultured lung epithelial cells, BMP-4 induced VEGF expression through induction of ALK1, ALK2, and ALK5. The VEGF secretion induced by BMP-4 in Mgp–/– epithelial cells stimulated proliferation of ECs. However, BMP-4 inhibited proliferation of lung epithelial cells, consistent with the increase in pulmonary vasculature at the expense of lung tissue in the Mgp-null mice. Similarly, BMP signaling and VEGF expression were increased in Mgp–/– mouse kidneys. We therefore conclude that Mgp gene deletion is what we believe to be a previously unidentified cause of AVMs. Because lack of MGP also causes arterial calcification, our findings demonstrate that the same gene defect has drastically different effects on distinct vascular beds.
doi:10.1172/JCI57567
PMCID: PMC3148746  PMID: 21765215
25.  Malnutrition, a new inducer for arterial calcification in hemodialysis patients? 
Background
Arterial calcification is a significant cardiovascular risk factor in hemodialysis patients. A series of factors are involved in the process of arterial calcification; however, the relationship between malnutrition and arterial calcification is still unclear.
Methods
68 hemodialysis patients were enrolled in this study. Nutrition status was evaluated using modified quantitative subjective global assessment (MQSGA). Related serum biochemical parameters were measured. And the radial artery samples were collected during the arteriovenous fistula surgeries. Hematoxylin/eosin stain was used to observe the arterial structures while Alizarin red stain to observe calcified depositions and classify calcified degree. The expressions of bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2) and matrix Gla protein (MGP) were detected by immunohistochemistry and western blot methods.
Results
66.18% hemodialysis patients were malnutrition. In hemodialysis patients, the calcified depositions were mainly located in the medial layer of the radial arteries and the expressions of BMP2 and MGP were both increased in the calcified areas. The levels of serum albumin were negatively associated with calcification score and the expressions of BMP2 and MGP. While MQSGA score, serum phosphorus and calcium × phosphorus product showed positive relationships with calcification score and the expressions of BMP2 and MGP.
Conclusions
Malnutrition is prevalent in hemodialysis patients and is associated with arterial calcification and the expressions of BMP2 and MGP in calcified radial arteries. Malnutrition may be a new inducer candidate for arterial calcification in hemodialysis patients.
doi:10.1186/1479-5876-11-66
PMCID: PMC3608064  PMID: 23506394
Arterial calcification; Hemodialysis; Malnutrition; Bone morphogenetic protein 2; Matrix Gla protein

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