Lathyrism-induced alterations in collagen cross-links influence the mechanical properties of bone material without affecting the mineral

E Paschalis, D Tatakis, S Robins, P Fratzl, I Manjubala, Ruth Zoehrer, S Gamsjaeger, B Buchinger, A Roschger, R Phipps, A Boskey, Enrico Dall'Ara, P Varga, P Zysset, K Klaushofer, P Roschger

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    In the present study a rat animal model of lathyrism was employed to decipher whether anatomically confined alterations in collagen cross-links are sufficient to influence the mechanical properties of whole bone.Animal experiments were performed under an ethics committee approved protocol. Sixty-four female (47. day old) rats of equivalent weights were divided into four groups (16 per group): Controls were fed a semi-synthetic diet containing 0.6% calcium and 0.6% phosphorus for 2 or 4. weeks and β-APN treated animals were fed additionally with β-aminopropionitrile (0.1% dry weight). At the end of this period the rats in the four groups were sacrificed, and L2-L6 vertebra were collected. Collagen cross-links were determined by both biochemical and spectroscopic (Fourier transform infrared imaging (FTIRI)) analyses. Mineral content and distribution (BMDD) were determined by quantitative backscattered electron imaging (qBEI), and mineral maturity/crystallinity by FTIRI techniques. Micro-CT was used to describe the architectural properties. Mechanical performance of whole bone as well as of bone matrix material was tested by vertebral compression tests and by nano-indentation, respectively.The data of the present study indicate that β-APN treatment changed whole vertebra properties compared to non-treated rats, including collagen cross-links pattern, trabecular bone volume to tissue ratio and trabecular thickness, which were all decreased (p < 0.05). Further, compression tests revealed a significant negative impact of β-APN treatment on maximal force to failure and energy to failure, while stiffness was not influenced. Bone mineral density distribution (BMDD) was not altered either. At the material level, β-APN treated rats exhibited increased Pyd/Divalent cross-link ratios in areas confined to a newly formed bone. Moreover, nano-indentation experiments showed that the E-modulus and hardness were reduced only in newly formed bone areas under the influence of β-APN, despite a similar mineral content.In conclusion the results emphasize the pivotal role of collagen cross-links in the determination of bone quality and mechanical integrity. However, in this rat animal model of lathyrism, the coupled alterations of tissue structural properties make it difficult to weigh the contribution of the anatomically confined material changes to the overall mechanical performance of whole bone. Interestingly, the collagen cross-link ratio in bone forming areas had the same profile as seen in actively bone forming trabecular surfaces in human iliac crest biopsies of osteoporotic patients.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1232-1241
    Number of pages10
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


    • β-aminopropionitrile
    • Bone formation
    • Bone quality
    • Bone strength
    • Collagen
    • Collagen cross-links


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