Sclerostin ablation prevents aortic valve stenosis in mice

J. Ethan Joll, Lance A. Riley, Matthew R. Bersi, Jeffry S. Nyman, W. David Merryman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that targeting sclerostin would accelerate the progression of aortic valve stenosis. Sclerostin (mouse gene, Sost) is a secreted glycoprotein that acts as a potent regulator of bone remodeling. Antibody therapy targeting sclerostin is approved for osteoporosis but results from a stage III clinical trial showed multiple offtarget cardiovascular effects. Wild-type (WT, Sost+/+) and Sost-gene knockout-expression (Null, Sost-/-) mice were generated and maintained to 12 mo of age on a high-cholesterol diet to induce aortic valve stenosis. Mice were examined by echocardiography, histology, and RNAseq. Immortalized valve interstitial cells were developed from each genotype for in vitro studies. Null mice developed a bone overgrowth phenotype, similar to patients with sclerosteosis. Surprisingly, however, WT mice developed hemodynamic signs of aortic valve stenosis, whereas Null mice were unchanged. WT mice had thicker aortic valve leaflets and higher amounts of a-smooth muscle actin, a marker myofibroblast activation and dystrophic calcification, with very little evidence of Runx2 expression, a marker of osteogenic calcification. RNAseq analysis of aortic roots indicated the HOX family of transcription factors was significantly upregulated in Null mice, and valve interstitial cells from Null animals were enriched with Hoxa1, Hoxb2, and Hoxd3 subtypes with downregulated Hoxa7. In addition, Null valve interstitial cells were shown to be less contractile than their WT counterparts. Contrary to our hypothesis, sclerostin targeting prevented hallmarks of aortic valve stenosis and indicates that targeted antibody treatments for osteoporosis may be beneficial for these patients regarding aortic stenosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)H1037-H1047
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • RNAseq
  • aortic valve
  • echocardiography
  • left ventricle
  • sclerostin


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