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Am J Pathol. 1999 Sep;155(3):973-82.

Elastin calcification and its prevention with aluminum chloride pretreatment.

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Department of Pediatric, Division of Cardiology, Joseph Stokes, Jr. Research Institute, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Elastin, an abundant structural protein present in the arterial wall, is prone to calcification in a number of disease processes including porcine bioprosthetic heart valve calcification and atherosclerosis. The mechanisms of elastin calcification are not completely elucidated. In the present work, we demonstrated calcification of purified elastin in rat subdermal implants (Ca(2+) = 89.73 +/- 9.84 microgram/mg after 21 days versus control, unimplanted Ca(2+) = 0.16 +/- 0.04 microgram/mg). X-ray diffraction analysis along with resolution enhanced FTIR spectroscopy demonstrated the mineral phase to be a poorly crystalline hydroxyapatite. We investigated the time course of calcification, the effect of glutaraldehyde crosslinking on calcification, and mechanisms of inhibition of elastin calcification by pretreatment with aluminum chloride (AlCl(3)). Glutaraldehyde pretreatment did not affect calcification (Ca(2+) = 89.06 +/- 17.93 microgram/mg for glutaraldehyde crosslinked elastin versus Ca(2+) = 89.73 +/- 9.84 microgram/mg for uncrosslinked elastin). This may be explained by radioactive ((3)H) glutaraldehyde studies showing very low reactivity between glutaraldehyde and elastin. Our results further demonstrated that AlCl(3) pretreatment of elastin led to complete inhibition of elastin calcification using 21-day rat subdermal implants, irrespective of glutaraldehyde crosslinking (Ca(2+) = 0.73-2.15 microgram/mg for AlCl(3) pretreated elastin versus 89.73 +/- 9.84 for untreated elastin). The AlCl(3) pretreatment caused irreversible binding of aluminum ions to elastin, as assessed by atomic emission spectroscopy. Moreover, aluminum ion binding altered the spatial configuration of elastin as shown by circular dichroism (CD), Fourier transform infrared (FTIR), and (13)C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy studies, suggesting a net structural change including a reduction in the extent of beta sheet structures and an increase in coil-turn conformations. Thus, it is concluded that purified elastin calcifies in rat subdermal implants, and that the AlCl(3)-pretreated elastin completely resists calcification due to irreversible aluminum ion binding and subsequent structural alterations caused by AlCl(3).

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