Vascular calcification is established to be a critical factor in diabetes mellitus, which causes cardiovascular and amputation complication of diabetic patients. OPG/RANKL/RANK axis serves as a regulatory role in vascular calcification. Ghrelin, an endogenous ligand of growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHSR), has been reported to exhibit potent cardiovascular protective effects. However, the role of ghrelin in the regulation of diabetic vascular calcification is still elusive. Here, we reported the role of ghrelin and its relationship with OPG/RANKL/RANK system in patients with diabetic foot amputation. In vivo and in vitro investigations were performed. Sixty type 2 diabetic patients with foot amputation were enrolled in vivo investigation, and they were divided into three groups through Doppler ultrasound: mild stenosis group (n=20), moderate stenosis group (n=20), and severe stenosis/occlusion group (n=20). Morphological analysis results showed diffused calcium depositions in the anterior tibial artery of diabetic amputees. Compared with the mild and moderate stenosis group, the severe stenosis/occlusion group had more spotty calcium depositions in atherosclerotic plaques. Western blot analysis indicated the expressions of osteoprotegerin (OPG) and ghrelin were downregulated, while the expression of receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa B ligand (RANKL) was upregulated with the vascular stenosis aggravation. Pearson correlation analysis revealed a negative correlation between calcium content and ghrelin levels (r=-0.58, P<0.001), as well as the ghrelin levels and sRANKL levels (r=-0.57, P<0.001). Meanwhile, OPG levels were positively correlated with ghrelin levels (r=0.63, P<0.001). From in vitro investigation, we found that the high-glucose (HG), high-lipid (HL), and β-glycerophosphate (β-GP) considerably increased the total calcium content, ALP activity, and expression of osteogenic markers in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). Ghrelin blunted calcification in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, ghrelin upregulated OPG expression and downregulated RANKL expression in VSMC calcification when anti-OPG antibody and RANKL were performed. Collectively, we therefore conclude serum ghrelin level may be a predictor of diabetic vascular calcification. The possible mechanism may be related with OPG/RANKL signal. Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.