Ectopic calcification is a frequent complication of many degenerative diseases. Here we identify the serum protein α2–Heremans-Schmid glycoprotein (Ahsg, also known as fetuin-A) as an important inhibitor of ectopic calcification acting on the systemic level. Ahsg-deficient mice are phenotypically normal, but develop severe calcification of various organs on a mineral and vitamin D–rich diet and on a normal diet when the deficiency is combined with a DBA/2 genetic background. This phenotype is not associated with apparent changes in calcium and phosphate homeostasis, but with a decreased inhibitory activity of the Ahsg-deficient extracellular fluid on mineral formation. The same underlying principle may contribute to many calcifying disorders including calciphylaxis, a syndrome of severe systemic calcification in patients with chronic renal failure. Taken together, our data demonstrate a critical role of Ahsg as an inhibitor of unwanted mineralization and provide a novel therapeutic concept to prevent ectopic calcification accompanying various diseases.
Cora Schäfer, Alexander Heiss, Anke Schwarz, Ralf Westenfeld, Markus Ketteler, Jürgen Floege, Werner Müller-Esterl, Thorsten Schinke, Willi Jahnen-Dechent