Biosynthesis of collagen crosslinks: In vivo labelling of neonatal skin, tendon, and bone in rats

Karen M. Reiser, Jerold A Last

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Collagen crosslinks in neonatal rats were labelled in vivo by a single intraperitoneal injection of 200 uCi of [14C]lysine. Rats were killed at times ranging from 30 minutes to 10 weeks after injection. Whole skin, tendon, and bone were analyzed, after reduction and hydrolysis, for collagen crosslink content by HPLC. Crosslinks and amino acids were visualized by their incorporation of radioactivity from [14C]lysine and also fluorometrically by post-column derivatization with o-phthalaldehyde. The incorporation of 14C from labelled lysine into the principal difunctional reducible crosslinks, N6.6'-dehydro-5,5'-dihydroxylysinonorleucine and N6.6'-dehydro-5-hydroxylysinonorleucine, increased most rapidly between 4 and 12 hours after injection, results similar to those observed by others studying crosslink biosynthesis in vitro. Incorporation of 14C into the tetrafunctional crosslink histidinohydroxymerodesmosine proceeded more slowly than it did for the difunctional crosslinks. Values for the amount of radioactivity incorporated into the various crosslinks reached an apparent constant value between 3 and 5 days after injection for all three tissues studied. These values remained approximately constant for the duration of the experiment except for HHMD in tendon, which showed an increase in incorporated radioactivity at 8 and 10 weeks after injection. Direct chemical quantification of these same crosslinks by determination of the fluorescence of their o-phthalaldehyde adducts was also performed. We conclude that in vivo labelling of collagen crosslinks can be studied, at least in rapidly growing neonates, after a single injection of radioactive lysine. The results of such studies support previous suggestions by others about the rate of formation of difunctional crosslinks based upon studies using in vitro systems. Our results further suggest that formation of the tetrafunctional reducible crosslink histidinohydroxymerodesmosine proceeds relatively rapidly in vivo. Finally, we conclude that such labelled crosslinks are apparently quite stable after biosynthesis, suggesting the possibility of studies of the metabolic fate of collagen crosslinks over appreciable fractions of the lifetime of a rat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-306
Number of pages14
JournalConnective Tissue Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology
  • Nephrology


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