Although bone–tissue stiffness is closely related to the degree to which bone has been mineralized, other determinants are yet to be identified. We, therefore, examined the extent to which the mineralization degree, collagen, and its cross-links are related to bone–tissue stiffness.
A total of 50 cancellous and cortical bone samples were derived from the right mandibular condyles of five young and five adult female pigs. The degree of mineralization of bone (DMB) was assessed using micro-computed tomography. Using high-performance liquid chromatography, we quantified the collagen content and the number of cross-links per collagen molecule of two enzymatic cross-links: hydroxylysylpyridinoline (HP) and lysylpyridinoline (LP), and one non-enzymatic cross-link: pentosidine (Pen). Nanoindentation was used to assess bone–tissue stiffness in three directions, and multiple linear regressions were used to calculate the correlation between collagen properties and bone–tissue stiffness, with the DMB as first predictor.
Whereas the bone–tissue stiffness of cancellous bone did not differ between the three directions of nanoindentation, or between the two age groups, cortical bone–tissue stiffness was higher in the adult tissue. After correction for DMB, the cross-links studied did not increase the explained variance. In the young group, however, LP significantly improved the explained variance in bone–tissue stiffness. Approximately half of the variation in bone–tissue stiffness in cancellous and cortical bone was explained by the DMB and the LP cross-links and thus they cannot be considered the sole determinants of the bone–tissue stiffness.