Carbamylation of elastic fibers is a molecular substratum of aortic stiffness

Because of their long lifespan, matrix proteins of the vascular wall, such as elastin, are subjected to molecular aging characterized by non-enzymatic post-translational modifications, like carbamylation which results from the binding of cyanate (mainly derived from the dissociation of urea) to protein amino groups. While several studies have demonstrated a relationship between increased plasma concentrations of carbamylated proteins and the development of cardiovascular diseases, molecular mechanisms explaining the involvement of protein carbamylation in these pathological contexts remain to be fully elucidated. The aim of this work was to determine whether vascular elastic fibers could be carbamylated, and if so, what impact this phenomenon would have on the mechanical properties of the vascular wall. Our experiments showed that vascular elastin was carbamylated in vivo.

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Fig: Schematic representation of extracellular matrix protein carbamylation within the arterial wall. CDP carbamylation-derived product, ECM extracellular matrix.

Fiber morphology was unchanged after in vitro carbamylation, as well as its sensitivity to elastase degradation. In mice fed with cyanate-supplemented water in order to increase protein carbamylation within the aortic wall, an increased stiffness in elastic fibers was evidenced by atomic force microscopy, whereas no fragmentation of elastic fiber was observed. In addition, this increased stiffness was also associated with an increase in aortic pulse wave velocity in ApoEF mice. These results provide evidence for the carbamylation of elastic fibers which results in an increase in their stiffness at the molecular level. These alterations of vessel wall mechanical properties may contribute to aortic stiffness, suggesting a new role for carbamylation in cardiovascular diseases.

Doué, M., Okwieka, A., Berquand, A. et al. Carbamylation of elastic fibers is a molecular substratum of aortic stiffness. Sci Rep 11, 17827 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-97293-5

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