Elastic fiber assembly is a complicated process involving multiple different proteins and enzyme activities. However, the specific protein-protein interactions that facilitate elastin polymerization have not been defined. To identify domains in the tropoelastin molecule important for the assembly process, we utilized an in vitro assembly model to map sequences within tropoelastin that facilitate its association with fibrillin-containing microfibrils in the extracellular matrix. Our results show that an essential assembly domain is located in the C-terminal region of the molecule, encoded by exons 29-36. Fine mapping studies using an exon deletion strategy and synthetic peptides identified the hydrophobic sequence in exon 30 as a major functional element in this region and suggested that the assembly process is driven by the propensity of this sequence to form β-sheet structure. Tropoelastin molecules lacking the C-terminal assembly domain expressed as transgenes in mice did not assemble nor did they interfere with assembly of full-length normal mouse elastin. In addition to providing important information about elastin assembly in general, the results of this study suggest how removal or alteration of the C terminus through stop or frameshift mutations might contribute to the elastin-related diseases supravalvular aortic stenosis and cutis laxa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18491-18498
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 16 2003


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