Enzymatic and non-enzymatic crosslinks found in collagen and elastin and their chemical synthesis
Collagen and elastin are the most abundant structural proteins in animals and play an integral biological and structural role in the extracellular matrix. The biosynthesis and maturation of collagen and elastin occurs via multi-step intracellular and extracellular processes including the formation of several covalent crosslinks to stabilise their structure, confer thermal stability and provide biochemical properties to tissues. There are two major groups of crosslinks based on their formation pathways, enzymatic and non-enzymatic. The biosynthesis of enzymatic crosslinks starts with the enzymatic oxidation of lysine or hydroxylysine residues into aldehydes. These aldehdyes undergo a series of spontaneous condensation reactions with lysine, hydroxylysine or other aldehdye residues to form immature covalent crosslinks which are further matured via poorly understood mechanisms into multivalent crosslinks. While enzymatic crosslinks make up the majority of protein–protein crosslinks, the non-enzymatic unselective glycation of lysine residues via the Maillard reaction results in the formation of Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs). These latter biosynthesis pathways are not fully understood as they are produced by a series of oxidative reactions between carbohydrates and collagen via Amadori rearrangements. Both covalent crosslinks and AGEs appear to correlate with several diseases such as skin and bone disorders, cancer metastasis, diabetes, Alzheimer's and cardiovascular diseases. Although several crosslinks are isolated, purified and described in collagen and elastin, only a few of them are chemically synthesized. Chemical synthesis plays an essential and important role in research providing pure crosslinks as reference materials and enabling the discovery of compounds to understand the biosynthesis of crosslinks and their properties. Synthetic crosslinks are crucial to verify the structures of collagen and elastin crosslinks where only a handful of structures have been determined by NMR spectroscopy and many other structures have only been predicted using mass spectrometry. This makes crosslinks and AGEs an interesting target for organic synthesis to produce sufficient quantities of material to enable studies on their biological significance and determine their absolute stereochemistry. The biological and chemical synthesis of both enzymatic and non-enzymatic crosslinks are extensively described in this review.
- This article is part of the themed collections: 2020 Organic Chemistry Frontiers Review-type Articles and 2019 Organic Chemistry Frontiers Review-type Articles