During aging and degeneration, many changes occur in the structure and composition of human cartilaginous tissues, which include the accumulation of the AGE (advanced glycation end-product), pentosidine, in long-lived proteins. In the present study, we investigated the accumulation of pentosidine in constituents of the human IVD (intervertebral disc), i.e. collagen, aggrecan-derived PG (proteoglycan) (A1) and its fractions (A1D1–A1D6) in health and pathology. We found that, after maturity, pentosidine accumulates with age. Over the age range studied, a linear 6-fold increase was observed in pentosidine accumulation for A1 and collagen with respective rates of 0.12 and 0.66 nmol·(g of protein)−1·year−1. Using previously reported protein turnover rate constants (kT) obtained from measurements of the D-isomer of aspartic residue in collagen and aggrecan of human IVD, we could calculate the pentosidine formation rate constants (kF) for these constituents [Sivan, Tsitron, Wachtel, Roughley, Sakkee, van der Ham, DeGroot, Roberts and Maroudas (2006) J. Biol. Chem. 281, 13009–13014; Tsitron (2006) MSc Thesis, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel]. In spite of the comparable formation rate constants obtained for A1D1 and collagen [1.81±0.25 compared with 3.71±0.26 μmol of pentosidine·(mol of lysine)−1·year−1 respectively], the higher pentosidine accumulation in collagen is consistent with its slower turnover (0.005 year−1 compared with 0.134 year−1 for A1D1). Pentosidine accumulation increased with decreasing buoyant density and decreasing turnover of the proteins from the most glycosaminoglycan-rich PG components (A1D1) to the least (A1D6), with respective kF values of 1.81±0.25 and 3.18±0.37 μmol of pentosidine·(mol of lysine)−1·year−1. We concluded that protein turnover is an important determinant of pentosidine accumulation in aggrecan and collagen of human IVD, as was found for articular cartilage. Correlation of pentosidine accumulation with protein half-life in both normal and degenerate discs further supports this finding.

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