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J Mol Biol. 2004 Jun 11;339(4):835-53.

Molecular structure and interaction of recombinant human type XVI collagen.

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  • 1Institut für Physiologische Chemie und Pathobiochemie, Universitätsklinikum Münster, Waldeyerstr. 15, 48149 Münster, Germany.

Erratum in

  • J Mol Biol. 2004 Oct 1;342(5):1675.


Collagen XVI is a minor component of at least two different extracellular fibrillar networks of specialized regions of skin and cartilage. In skin, collagen XVI is integrated into particular fibrillin-rich microfibrils lacking an amorphous elastin core. In cartilage, collagen XVI is a component of small heterotypic D-banded fibrils, mainly occurring in the territorial matrix of chondrocytes. Here, we present the first direct evidence for the molecular structure and functional properties of these fibril-associated collagens with interrupted triple helices (FACIT). We have expressed recombinantly the full-length alpha1 chain of human collagen XVI in HEK 293 EBNA cells in large quantities using an episomal expression system. Secreted full-length recombinant collagen XVI forms stable disulfide-bonded homotrimers and is rapidly proteolytically processed to distinct fragments at specific protease sequence motifs, one resembling an aggrecanase recognition site. Limited trypsin digestion assays and thermal transition curves imply sequential thermal denaturation of individual triple helical domains of this recombinant collagen, similar to authentic collagen XVI. Molecular images of collagen XVI reveal rod-like molecules which harbor multiple sharp kinks attributing a highly flexible structure presumably introduced by non-collagenous (NC) regions. Terminally located cloverleaf-shaped nodules correspond to the large NC NC11 domain of trimeric collagen XVI. The total length of individual trimeric recombinant collagen XVI molecules constitutes about 240 nm as calculated by atomic force and negative staining electron microscopy. Recombinant collagen XVI interacts with fibrillin-1 and with fibronectin indicating multiple molecular interactions in which this ubiquitously expressed and versatile FACIT-collagen can participate. In vitro generated collagen XVI provides an indispensable tool for future determination of its function during supramolecular assembly of matrix aggregates and its role in maintenance, organization and interaction of fibrillar structures.

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