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J Mol Biol. 2005 Jan 28;345(4):773-84.

The precision of lateral size control in the assembly of corneal collagen fibrils.

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  • 1Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Research, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Smith Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.


Collagen fibrils in the corneal stroma have been recognised to have a high degree of uniformity of diameter and spatial arrangement compared with those in other mature connective tissues. The precision of this lateral size control has been determined in this study by mass per unit length measurements on fibrils isolated from adult bovine corneal stroma. At the molecular level, however, there are substantial variations in lateral size, both between fibrils and along individual fibrils. The mean mass per unit length was measured to be 304 kDa nm(-1), equivalent to 347 collagen molecules in transverse section and had a standard deviation of 8.3%. The variation of lateral size along individual fibrils was measured as a mass slope over approximately 7 microm lengths (100 D-periods) and had a mean mass slope equivalent to 0.56 molecules per D-period. Smoothly tapered tips of length approximately 7 microm were also observed with a mass slope of about approximately three molecules per D-period. The frequency of these tips was used to estimate a mean fibril length of approximately 940 microm in the sample tissue. Observations of molecular polarity within the fibril shafts and tips were used to consider possible models of fibril assembly.

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