Collagen cross-links in mineralizing tissues: a review of their chemistry, function, and clinical relevance

Bone. 1998 Mar;22(3):181-7. doi: 10.1016/s8756-3282(97)00279-2.


Bone collagen cross-links are now widely used to assess bone resorption levels in many metabolic bone diseases. The post-translational modifications of bone and other mineralizing collagens are significantly different from those of other type I collagen matrices, a fact that has been exploited during recent advances in the development of biochemical markers of bone resorption. The enzymatic collagen cross-linking mechanism is based upon aldehyde formation from specific telopeptide lysine or hydroxylysine residues. The immature ketoimine cross-links in bone form via the condensation of a telopeptide aldehyde with a helical lysine or hydroxylysine. Subsequent maturation to the pyridinoline and pyrrole cross-links occur by further reaction of the ketoimines with telopeptide aldehydes. In mineralizing tissues, a relatively low level of lysyl hydroxylation results in low levels of hydroxylysyl pyridinoline, and the occurrence of the largely bone specific lysyl pyridinoline and pyrrolic cross-links. The collagen post-translational modifications appear to play an integral role in matrix mineralization. The matrix of the turkey tendon only mineralizes after a remodeling of the collagen and the subsequent formation of a modified matrix more typical of bone than tendon. Further, disturbances in the post-translational modification of collagen can also affect the mineralization density and crystal structure of the tissue. In addition to their use as a convenient measure of matrix degradation, collagen cross-links are of significant importance for the biomechanical integrity of bone. Recent studies of osteoporotic bone, for example, have demonstrated that subtle perturbations in the pattern of lysine hydroxylation result in changes in the cross-link profile. These alterations, specifically changes in the level of the pyrrolic cross-link, also correlate with the strength of the bone. Further research into the biochemistry of bone collagen cross-links may expand current understanding and their clinical application in metabolic bone disease. This review also demonstrates the potential for further study into this area to provide more subtle information into the mechanisms and etiology of disease and aging of mineralizing tissues.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Amino Acids / chemistry
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bone Development / physiology*
  • Bone and Bones / chemistry*
  • Bone and Bones / physiology
  • Calcification, Physiologic / physiology*
  • Collagen / chemistry*
  • Collagen / physiology*
  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Hydroxylation
  • Hydroxylysine / metabolism
  • Lysine / metabolism
  • Osteoporosis / physiopathology*
  • Protein-Lysine 6-Oxidase / metabolism


  • Amino Acids
  • Hydroxylysine
  • pyridinoline
  • Collagen
  • Protein-Lysine 6-Oxidase
  • Lysine