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J Struct Biol. 2002 Apr-May;138(1-2):130-6.

Three-dimensional reconstructions of extracellular matrix polymers using automated electron tomography.

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School of Biological Sciences, 2.205 Stopford Building, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PT, United Kingdom.


The extracellular matrix is an intricate network of macromolecules which provides support for cells and a framework for tissues. The detailed structure and organisation of most matrix polymers is poorly understood. These polymers have a complex ultrastructure, and it has proved a major challenge both to define their structural organisation and to relate this to their biological function. However, new approaches using automated electron tomography are beginning to reveal important insights into the molecular assembly and structural organisation of two of the most abundant polymer systems in the extracellular matrix. We have generated three-dimensional reconstructions of collagen fibrils from bovine cornea and fibrillin microfibrils from ciliary zonules. Analysis of these data has provided new insights into the organisation and function of these large macromolecular assemblies.

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