Studies over the years have described a filamentous structure to mature elastin that suggests a complicated packing arrangement of tropoelastin subunits. The currently accepted mechanism for tropoelastin assembly requires microfibrils to serve as a physical extracellular scaffold for alignment of tropoelastin monomers during and before crosslinking. However, recent evidence suggests that the initial stages of tropoelastin assembly occur within the cell or at unique assembly sites on the plasma membrane where tropoelastin self assembles to form elastin aggregates. Outside the cell, elastin aggregates transfer to growing elastic fibers in the extracellular matrix where tensional forces on microfibrils generated through cell movement help shape the growing fiber. Overall, these observations challenge the widely held idea that interaction between monomeric tropoelastin and microfibrils is a requirement for elastin assembly, and point to self-assembly of tropoelastin as a driving force in elastin maturation.
- Elastic fiber
- Elastin assembly