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Biopolymers. 2003 Dec;70(4):445-55.

Recombinant human elastin polypeptides self-assemble into biomaterials with elastin-like properties.

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Cardiovascular Research Program, Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5E 1X8.


Processes involving self-assembly of monomeric units into organized polymeric arrays are currently the subject of much attention, particularly in the areas of nanotechnology and biomaterials. One biological example of a protein polymer with potential for self-organization is elastin. Elastin is the extracellular matrix protein that imparts the properties of extensibility and elastic recoil to large arteries, lung parenchyma, and other tissues. Tropoelastin, the approximately 70 kDa soluble monomeric form of elastin, is highly nonpolar in character, consisting essentially of 34 alternating hydrophobic and crosslinking domains. Crosslinking domains contain the lysine residues destined to form the covalent intermolecular crosslinks that stabilize the polymer. We and others have suggested that the hydrophobic domains are sites of interactions that contribute to juxtaposition of lysine residues in preparation for crosslink formation. Here, using recombinant polypeptides based on sequences in human elastin, we demonstrate that as few as three hydrophobic domains flanking two crosslinking domains are sufficient to support a self-assembly process that aligns lysines for zero-length crosslinking, resulting in formation of the crosslinks of native elastin. This process allows fabrication of a polymeric matrix with solubility and mechanical properties similar to those of native elastin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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