Analyses of lysine aldehyde cross-linking in collagen reveal that the mature cross-link histidinohydroxylysinonorleucine is an artifact [Protein Structure and Folding] (Journal of Biological Chemistry)
Lysyl oxidase-generated intermolecular cross-links are essential for the tensile strength of collagen fibrils. Two cross-linking pathways can be defined, one based on telopeptide lysine aldehydes and another on telopeptide hydroxylysine aldehydes. Since the 1970s it has been accepted that the mature cross-linking structures on the lysine aldehyde pathway, which dominates in skin and cornea, incorporate histidine residues. Here, using a range of MS-based methods, we re-examined this conclusion and found that telopeptide aldol dimerization is the primary mechanism for stable cross-link formation. The C-telopeptide aldol dimers formed labile addition products with glucosylgalactosyl hydroxylysine at ?1(I)K87 in adjacent collagen molecules that resisted borohydride reduction and after acid hydrolysis produced histidinohydroxylysinonorleucine (HHL), but only from species with a histidine in their ?1(I) C-telopeptide sequence. Peptide MS analyses and the lack of HHL formation in rat and mouse skin, species that lack an ?1(I) C-telopeptide histidine, revealed that HHL is a laboratory artifact rather than a natural cross-linking structure. Our experimental results also establish that histidinohydroxymerodesmosine is produced by borohydride reduction of N-telopeptide allysine aldol dimers in aldimine intermolecular linkage to nonglycosylated ?1(I) K930. Borohydride reduction of the aldimine promotes an accompanying base-catalyzed Michael addition of ?1(I) H932 imidazole to the ?,?-unsaturated aldol. These aldehydes are intramolecular at the N terminus but at the C terminus they can be both intramolecular and intermolecular according to present and earlier findings.