The adipocytokine leptin has been proposed to increase cardiovascular risk in both obese and diabetic individuals. In the current study, therefore, we used apoE-deficient mice to examine the effects of leptin on both lesion size and calcification.
Methods and Results—
Mice were treated with once daily intraperitoneal injections of leptin (125 μg/mouse/d) for 2 months. The mice were then euthanized, and sections of the aortic root and thoracic aorta analyzed histomorphometrically. Measurements of lesion size and surface area occupied by atherosclerotic lesions did not reveal any differences between nontreated and leptin-treated animals. However, von Kossa staining of the aortic root demonstrated an 8.3±2.0-fold increase in lesion calcification as well as a 2.5±0.6-fold increase in valvular calcification in those animals treated with leptin. In addition, the percent total lesion area demonstrating ALP-positive staining was 5.4±2.1-fold greater in leptin-treated mice when compared to nontreated control mice. This increase in ALP staining was also accompanied by an increase in the expression of the osteoblast-specific markers, osteocalcin, and osteopontin.
Based on these observations, we conclude that leptin may increase cardiovascular risk by promoting osteogenic differentiation and thus vascular calcification.