Valve endothelial-interstitial interactions drive emergent complex calcific lesion formation in vitro

Objective: Calcific aortic valve disease (CAVD) is an actively regulated degenerative disease process. Clinical lesions exhibit marked 3D complexity not represented in current in vitro systems. We here present a unique mechanically stressed 3D culture system that recapitulates valve interstitial cell (VIC) induced matrix calcification through myofibroblastic activation and osteoblastic differentiation. We test the hypothesis that valve endothelial (VEC) - interstitial collaborative interactions modulate the risk and complexity of calcific pathogenesis within mechanically stressed and pro-inflammatory environments.

Approach and results: Porcine aortic valve endothelial and interstitial cells (VEC and VIC) were seeded in a mechanically constrained collagen hydrogels alone or in co-culture configurations. Raised 3D VIC-filled lesions formed within 7 days when cultured in osteogenic media (OGM), and surprisingly exacerbated by endothelial coculture. We identified a spatially coordinated pro-endochondral vs. pro-osteogenic signaling program within the lesion. VEC underwent Endothelial-to-Mesenchymal Transformation (EndMT) and populated the lesion center. The spatial complexity of molecular and cellular signatures of this 3D in vitro CAVD system were consistent with human diseased aortic valve histology. SNAI1 was highly expressed in the VEC and subendothelial direct VIC corroborates with human CAVD lesions. Spatial distribution of Sox9 vs. Runx2 expression within the developed lesions (Sox9 peri-lesion vs. Runx2 predominantly within lesions) mirrored their expression in heavily calcified human aortic valves. Finally, we demonstrate the applicability of this platform for screening potential pharmacologic therapies through blocking the canonical NFκB pathway via BAY 11-7082.

Conclusions: Our results establish that VEC actively induce VIC pathological remodeling and calcification via EndMT and paracrine signaling. This mechanically constrained culture platform enables the interrogation of accelerated cell-mediated matrix remodeling behavior underpinned by this cellular feedback circuit. The high fidelity of this complex 3D model system to human CAVD mechanisms supports its use to test mechanisms of intercellular communication in valves and their pharmacological control.

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S2913 BAY 11-7082 BAY 11-7082 (BAY 11-7821) is a NF-κB inhibitor, inhibits TNFα-induced IκBα phosphorylation with IC50 of 10 μM in tumor cells. BAY 11-7082 inhibits ubiquitin-specific protease USP7 and USP21 with IC50 of 0.19 μM and 0.96 μM, respectively. BAY 11-7082 induces apoptosis and S phase arrest in gastric cancer cells. (217) (7)

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