Among the proteins known or suspected to be involved in bone and vascular biology are several members of the vitamin K-dependent or Gla protein family. This review focuses on the role of two of these: osteocalcin and matrix Gla protein. Osteocalcin metabolism has been implicated in the pathogenesis of osteoporosis through an unknown mechanism that may be linked to suboptimal vitamin K status resulting in its undercarboxylation and presumed dysfunction. Recent studies that have investigated this hypothesis are discussed, as are recent promising clinical studies of vitamin K supplementation in osteoporosis. A recently delineated function of matrix Gla protein is as a powerful inhibitor of calcification of arteries and cartilage. In the period covered by this review there have been several landmark studies using cell systems, whole animals and genetic techniques that have consolidated and extended our knowledge of the role of matrix Gla protein in the prevention of ectopic calcification.
Vitamin K Research Unit, The Haemophilia Centre, St Thomas's Hospital, London, UK
Correspondence to Martin J. Shearer, Vitamin K Research Unit of the Haemophilia Centre, The Rayne Institute, Lambeth Wing, St Thomas's Hospital, Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7EH, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7928 9292 ext 2939; fax: +44 (0) 20 7401 3125; e-mail: email@example.com