Homocystinuria, a disorder originating in defects in the methionine metabolism, is characterized by an elevated plasma concentration of homocysteine. Most patients have a defect in the cystathionine-β-synthase, the key enzyme in the conversion of homocysteine to cysteine. Many abnormalities in the connective tissue of patients with homocystinuria resemble those seen in Marian syndrome, caused by mutations in fibrillin-1. These observations led to the hypothesis that the structure and function of fibrillin-1 is compromised in patients with homocystinuria. To test this hypothesis we produced recombinant human fibrillin-1 fragments spanning the central portion of the molecule (8-Cys/transforming growth factor-β binding domain 3 to calcium binding EGF domain 22) and extensively analyzed the potential of homocysteine to modify structural and functional properties of these proteins. Circular dichroism spectroscopy revealed moderate changes of their secondary structures after incubation with homocysteine. Equilibrium dialysis demonstrated a number of high affinity calcium binding sites in the tandemly repeated calcium binding epidermal growth factor-like domains 11-22. Calcium binding of homocysteine-modified fragments was completely abolished. Incubation of the recombinant proteins with homocysteine rendered the analyzed calcium binding EGF domains as well as the 8-Cys/transforming growth factor-β binding domain 3 significantly more susceptible to proteolytic degradation. Furthermore, data were obtained demonstrating that homocysteine can covalently modify fibrillin-1 via disulfide bonds. These data strongly suggest that structural and functional modifications as well as degradation processes of fibrillin-1 in the connective tissues of patients with homocystinuria play a major role in the pathogenesis of this disorder.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)