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Biophys J. 2012 Nov 21;103(10):2157-66. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2012.10.010. Epub 2012 Nov 20.

Collagen unfolding accelerates water influx, determining hydration in the interstitial matrix.

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  • 1Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Research, Wake-Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.


In the interstitial matrix, collagen unfolding at physiologic temperatures is thought to facilitate interactions with enzymes and scaffold molecules during inflammation, tissue remodeling, and wound healing. We tested the hypothesis that it also plays a role in modulating flows and matrix hydration potential. After progressively unfolding dermal collagen in situ, we measured the hydration parameters by osmotic stress techniques and modeled them as linear functions of unfolded collagen, quantified by differential scanning calorimetry after timed heat treatment. Consistent with the hypothetical model, the thermodynamic and flow parameters obtained experimentally were related linearly to the unfolded collagen fraction. The increases in relative humidity and intensity of T(2) maps were also consistent with interfacial energy contributions to the hydration potential and the hydrophobic character of the newly formed protein/water interfaces. As a plausible explanation, we propose that increased tension at interfaces formed during collagen unfolding generate local gradients in the matrix that accelerate water transfer in the dermis. This mechanism adds a convective component to interstitial transfer of biological fluids that, unlike diffusion, can speed the dispersion of water and large solutes within the matrix.

Copyright © 2012 Biophysical Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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