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J Mol Biol. 2007 Jun 8;369(3):841-51. Epub 2007 Apr 4.

Distinct steps of cross-linking, self-association, and maturation of tropoelastin are necessary for elastic fiber formation.

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Department of Clinical Chemistry, Hoshi University School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2-4-41 Ebara, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 142-8501, Japan.


Elastic fibers play an important role in the characteristic resilience of many tissues. The assembly of tropoelastin into a fibrillar matrix is a complex stepwise process and the deposition and cross-linking of tropoelastin are believed to be key steps of elastic fiber formation. However, the detailed mechanisms of elastic fiber assembly have not been defined yet. Here, we demonstrate the relationship between deposition and the cross-linking/maturation of tropoelastin. Our data show that a C-terminal half-fragment of tropoelastin encoded by exons 16-36 (BH) is deposited onto microfibrils, yet we detect very limited amounts of the cross-linking amino acid, desmosine, an indicator of maturation, whereas the N-terminal half-fragment encoded by exons 2-15 (FH) was deficient for both deposition and cross-linking, suggesting that elastic fiber formation requires full-length tropoelastin molecules. A series of experiments using mutant BH fragments, lacking either exon 16 or 30, or a deletion of both exons showed that self-association of tropoelastin polypeptides was an early step in elastic fiber assembly. Immunofluorescence and Western blot assay showed that the treatment of cell culture medium or conditioned medium with beta-aminopropionitrile to inhibit cross-linking, prevented both the deposition and polymerization of tropoelastin. In conclusion, our present results support the view that self-association and oxidation by lysyl oxidase precedes tropoelastin deposition onto microfibrils and the entire molecule of tropoelastin is required for this following maturation process.

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