Relationship Between Collagen Fibrils, Glycosaminoglycans, and Stress Relaxation in Mitral Valve Chordae Tendineae

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The tensile properties of mitral valve chordae tendineae derive from their structural make-up. The objectives of this study were to compare the stress relaxation properties of different types of chordae and relate their variation to structural features. Fifty chordae from eight hearts were subjected to stress relaxation tests. The percent stress relaxation and the relaxation rates were found to increase in the order of marginal, basal, and strut chordae. The water content of the three types of chordae was the same (marginal 77.1 ± 5.9%, basal 77.0 ± 3.4%, strut 78.0 ± 2.3% wet weight). The collagen, elastin, and glycosaminoglycan (GAG) content in chordae were quantified using hydroxyproline assay, fastin elastin assay, and fluorophore-assisted carbohydrate electrophoresis, respectively. Collagen content of marginal chordae was only slightly less than that of basal and strut chordae (marginal 56.6 ± 8.2%, basal 61.4 ± 5.6%, strut 63.8 ± 3.9% dry weight). There was also no significant difference in elastin content between the chordae (marginal 5.3 ± 3.2%, basal 5.4 ± 2.7%, strut 4.6 ± 1.7% dry weight). However, the concentrations of unsulfated chondroitin/dermatan sulfate, 6-sulfated chondroitin sulfate, and 4-sulfate chondroitin sulfate significantly decreased in the order of marginal, basal, and strut. The total GAG-content also decreased in the order of marginal, basal, and strut (p = 0.06). The greater amount of GAGs in marginal versus strut chordae is consistent with our previous observations that marginal chordae have a greater collagen fibril density and thus more GAG-mediated, fibril-to-fibril linkages. The greater number of proteoglycan linkages may prevent the slippage of fibrils with respect to each other, and thus reduce stress relaxation. The different viscoelastic properties of mitral valve chordae can thus be explained morphologically.

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