Ectopic mineralisation of the mandibular symphysis in ENT1 knockout mice: A model of dystrophic calcification
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Equilibrative nucleoside transporter 1 (ENT1) transfers nucleosides, such as adenosine, across plasma membranes. We reported previously that mice lacking ENT1 (ENT1−/−) exhibit progressive ectopic calcification of spinal tissues—a phenotype resembling diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) in humans. Our objective was to investigate potential calcification of orofacial tissues in ENT1−/− mice. Heads of wild-type mice and ENT1−/− mice from 3 to 17 months were evaluated using microcomputed tomography (μCT). Some heads were decalcified and processed for histological assessment. Other heads were examined using energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and micro X-ray diffraction. Using μCT, ENT1−/− mice showed extensive radiopaque lesions within the mandibular symphysis, the severity of which increased with advancing age. Histologically, at 6 months these ectopic radiopacities were found to correspond to acellular, amorphous, eosinophilic material, with no evidence of inflammatory cells. Because lesions were localised to the symphysis, we identified early pathological changes at 3 months and observed that lesions initiated specifically within the fibrocartilage pad. Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy of ectopic lesions revealed large amounts of calcium and phosphorous in a molar ratio of ~1.59, and X-ray diffraction profiles matched that of calcium-deficient hydroxyapatite. This is the first characterisation of ectopic calcifications within the mandibular symphysis of ENT1−/− mice, indicating a role for ENT1 and adenosine metabolism in regulating calcification of fibrocartilaginous tissues. Moreover, these murine lesions resemble areas of dystrophic calcification in the spinal tissues of humans with DISH. Importantly, ectopic calcifications develop in a reproducible temporal pattern within a well-defined anatomical region and, thus, provide a model for determining the cellular and molecular pathways underlying ectopic calcification in DISH and related disorders.