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Birth Defects Res C Embryo Today. 2007 Dec;81(4):229-40. doi: 10.1002/bdrc.20111.

New insights into elastic fiber assembly.

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Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Elastic fibers provide recoil to tissues that undergo repeated stretch, such as the large arteries and lung. These large extracellular matrix (ECM) structures contain numerous components, and our understanding of elastic fiber assembly is changing as we learn more about the various molecules associated with the assembly process. The main components of elastic fibers are elastin and microfibrils. Elastin makes up the bulk of the mature fiber and is encoded by a single gene. Microfibrils consist mainly of fibrillin, but also contain or associate with proteins such as microfibril associated glycoproteins (MAGPs), fibulins, and EMILIN-1. Microfibrils were thought to facilitate alignment of elastin monomers prior to cross-linking by lysyl oxidase (LOX). We now know that their role, as well as the overall assembly process, is more complex. Elastic fiber formation involves elaborate spatial and temporal regulation of all of the involved proteins and is difficult to recapitulate in adult tissues. This report summarizes the known interactions between elastin and the microfibrillar proteins and their role in elastic fiber assembly based on in vitro studies and evidence from knockout mice. We also propose a model of elastic fiber assembly based on the current data that incorporates interactions between elastin, LOXs, fibulins and the microfibril, as well as the pivotal role played by cells in structuring the final functional fiber.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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