Vitamin K deficit and elastolysis theory in pulmonary elasto-degenerative diseases

Rob Janssen*, Cees Vermeer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Elastin is a unique protein providing deformability and resilience to dynamic tissues, such as arteries and lungs. It is an absolute basic requirement for circulation and respiration. Elastin can be degraded by elastases and has a high calcium affinity. Elastin calcification and elastin degradation are two pathological processes that impair elastin's functioning. Furthermore, elastin degradation can be associated to elastin calcification.

Matrix Gla Protein (MGP) is probably the most potent natural inhibitor of elastin calcification and requires vitamin K for its activation. Measuring circulating levels of inactive MGP (dp-ucMGP) is a frequently used method to assess vitamin K status. Dp-ucMGP reflects the burden of vitamin K dependent proteins that have not been activated by vitamin K and could therefore best be regarded as a biomarker of a vitamin K deficit. Dp-ucMGP levels decrease after vitamin K supplementation.

Since the amino acids desmosine and isodesmosine (DES) are unique to crosslinked elastin fibers, systemic elastin degradation can be assessed with the plasma DES assay. Recently, we discovered a strong correlation between plasma dp-ucMGP and plasma DES levels in both patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and controls.

The 'Vitamin K deficit and elastolysis theory' posits that elastin degradation causes a rise in the vitamin K deficit and implies that vitamin K supplementation could be preventing elastin degradation. If this hypothesis holds true and is universally found in every state and condition, it will have an unprecedented impact on the management of every single pulmonary disease characterized by accelerated elastin degradation, such as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, bronchiectasis, COPD and cystic fibrosis. Theoretically, a plasma dp-ucMGP concentration of zero would be associated with a near-complete standstill of elastin degradation and disease progression in patients with any of these debilitating conditions. (C) 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-41
Number of pages4
JournalMedical Hypotheses
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • COPD
  • LUNG


Dive into the research topics of 'Vitamin K deficit and elastolysis theory in pulmonary elasto-degenerative diseases'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this