The carboxy-terminus of tropoelastin is a highly conserved, atypical region of the molecule with sequences that define both cell and matrix interactions. This domain also plays a critical but unknown role in the assembly and crosslinking of tropoelastin during elastic fiber maturation. Using a competitive ELISA with an antibody to an elastase-resistant epitope in the carboxy-terminus of tropoelastin (domain-36), we quantified levels of the domain-36 sequence in elastase-derived peptides from mature, insoluble elastin. We found that the amount of carboxy-terminal epitope in elastin is ~ 0.2% of the expected value, assuming each tropoelastin monomer that is incorporated into the insoluble polymer has an intact carboxy-terminus. The low levels suggest that the majority of domain-36 sequence is either removed at some stage of elastin assembly or that the antigenic epitope is altered by posttranslational modification. Biochemical evidence is presented for a potential lysine-derived cross-link in this region, which would alter the extractability and antigenicity of the carboxy-terminal epitope. These results show that there is little or no unmodified domain-36 in mature elastin, indicating that the cell and matrix binding activities associated with this region of tropoelastin are lost or modified as elastin matures. A crosslinking function for domain-36 may serve to help register the multiple crosslinking sites in elastin and explains why mutations that alter the domain-36 sequence have detrimental effects on elastic fiber assembly.
- Elastic fiber assembly
- Elastin diseases