Analysis of age-associated changes in collagen crosslinking in the skin and lung in monkeys and rats

Karen M. Reiser, Suzanne M. Hennessy, Jerold A Last

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57 Scopus citations


The present study was designed to address a specific question: can we define collagen aging in vivo in terms of alterations in collagen crosslinking? In order to assess the complete spectrum of change throughout life, tissues from rats, monkeys and (where available) humans were examined at ages ranging from fetal to old. Skin and lung were selected in order to include all of the crosslinks derived from lysyl oxidase-generated aldehydes that have been identified thus far, both reducible and norreducible. Crosslinks analyzed included hydroxylysinonorleucine, dihydroxylysinonorleucine, histidinohydroxymerodesmosine, hydroxypyridinium, lysyl pyridinium, and a deoxy analogue of hydroxypyridium found in skin that differs structurally from lysyl pyridinium. Tissues from both a short-lived species (rats) and a long-lived species (monkeys) were analyzed to test further the hypothesis that changes in crosslinking are linked predominantly to biological age of the animal, rather than temporal aging. We found that biological aging seems to regulate certain predictable changes during the first part of the lifespan: the disappearance postnatally of dihydroxylysinonorleucine in skin, the rapid decrease in difunctional crosslink content in lung and skin during early growth and development, and the gradual rise in hydroxypyridinium and lysyl pyridinium in lung tissue. Changes in crosslinking were far less predictable during the second half of the lifespan. Although hydroxypyridinium content continued to rise or reached a plateau in rat and monkey lungs, respectively, it showed a decrease in human lungs. The analogous trifunctional crosslink in skin, the so-called 'pyridinoline analogue', decreased dramatically in both rats and monkeys in later life. Our data suggest that caution must be taken in drawing inferences about human connective tissue aging from experiments performed in short-lived species such as rodents. Furthermore, the finding that there may be fewer total lysyl oxidase-derived crosslinks per collagen molecule in very old animals as compared with young animals suggests that we may need to expand our concepts of collagen crosslinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-348
Number of pages10
JournalBBA - General Subjects
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 7 1987


  • (Monkey and rat skin and lung)
  • 4-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperazineethane-sulfonic acid
  • Aging
  • Collagen cross-linking
  • Hepes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biophysics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Medicine(all)


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