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J Mol Biol. 2003 Sep 5;332(1):183-93.

Fibrillin microfibrils are stiff reinforcing fibres in compliant tissues.

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Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester, 2.205 Stopford Building, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.


Fibrillin-rich microfibrils have endowed tissues with elasticity throughout multicellular evolution. We have used molecular combing techniques to determine Young's modulus for individual microfibrils and X-ray diffraction of zonular filaments of the eye to establish the linearity of microfibril periodic extension. Microfibril periodicity is not altered at physiological zonular tissue extensions and Young's modulus is between 78 MPa and 96 MPa, which is two orders of magnitude stiffer than elastin. We conclude that elasticity in microfibril-containing tissues arises primarily from reversible alterations in supra-microfibrillar arrangements rather than from intrinsic elastic properties of individual microfibrils which, instead, act as reinforcing fibres in fibrous composite tissues.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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