Intervertebral discs of the cervical-thoracic region of the spine of BDL mice which are homozygous for the ky gene mutation undergo degeneration. Discs from these mice have a normal collagen content and undergo normal collagen cross linking prior to the appearance of degenerative changes. The major reducible collagen cross-link formed in discs of these mice and in normal CBA strain mice is hydroxylysino-5-ketonorleucine. These results and other previous results indicate that the discs in the ky mouse develop degenerative disease due to an extrinsic factor rather than to an intrinsic abnormality of their extracellular matrix. The extrinsic factor has been identified as spinal muscle atrophy.

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