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J Biol Chem. 2002 Feb 8;277(6):3926-34. Epub 2001 Nov 27.

Discovery of a high molecular weight complex of calcium, phosphate, fetuin, and matrix gamma-carboxyglutamic acid protein in the serum of etidronate-treated rats.

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Division of Biology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0368, USA.


In the present study we report the discovery of a novel protein-mineral complex in the serum of rats treated with doses of the bone-active bisphosphonate etidronate that inhibit normal bone mineralization. The composition of this high molecular mass protein-mineral complex consists of about 18% mineral, 80% fetuin, and 2% matrix Gla protein (MGP) by weight, and the presence of the complex in serum after an injection of 8 mg etidronate/100 g of body weight elevates calcium by 1.8-fold (to 4.3 mm), phosphate by 1.6-fold (to 5.6 mm), and MGP by 25-fold (to 12 microg/ml). The serum mineral complex reaches maximal levels at 6 h after subcutaneous injection of etidronate and is subsequently cleared from serum by 24 h. This highly specific complex of fetuin, MGP, and mineral prevents the growth, aggregation, and precipitation of the mineral component, which indicates that the previously reported calcification inhibitory activities of fetuin and MGP may be related to their ability to form stable complexes with nascent mineral nuclei. Treatment with the vitamin K-antagonist warfarin prevents the increase in serum MGP after etidronate injection, which shows that the increase in serum MGP is due to new synthesis and that the gamma-carboxylation of MGP is necessary for its binding to the serum mineral complex.

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