Background: Pseudoxanthoma elasticum (PXE), due to rare sequence variants in the ABCC6
gene, is characterized by calcification of elastic fibers in several tissues/organs; however, the pathomechanisms have not been completely clarified. Although it is a systemic disorder on a genetic basis, it is not known why not all elastic fibers are calcified in the same patient and even in the same tissue. At present, data on soft connective tissue mineralization derive from studies performed on vascular tissues and/or on clinically affected skin, but there is no information on patients’ clinically unaffected skin. Methods: Skin biopsies from clinically unaffected and affected areas of the same PXE patient (n = 6) and from healthy subjects were investigated by electron microscopy. Immunohistochemistry was performed to evaluate p-SMAD 1/5/8 and p-SMAD 2/3 expression and localization. Results: In clinically unaffected skin, fragmented elastic fibers were prevalent, whereas calcified fibers were only rarely observed at the ultrastructural level. p-SMAD1/5/8 and p-SMAD2/3 were activated in both affected and unaffected skin. Conclusion: These findings further support the concept that fragmentation/degradation is necessary but not sufficient to cause calcification of elastic fibers and that additional local factors (e.g., matrix composition, mechanical forces and mesenchymal cells) contribute to create the pro-osteogenic environment.
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