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J Biol Chem. 2007 Aug 3;282(31):22437-47. Epub 2007 Jun 11.

The size exclusion characteristics of type I collagen: implications for the role of noncollagenous bone constituents in mineralization.

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Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0368, USA.


The mineral in bone is located primarily within the collagen fibril, and during mineralization the fibril is formed first and then water within the fibril is replaced with mineral. The collagen fibril therefore provides the aqueous compartment in which mineral grows. Although knowledge of the size of molecules that can diffuse into the fibril to affect crystal growth is critical to understanding the mechanism of bone mineralization, there have been as yet no studies on the size exclusion properties of the collagen fibril. To determine the size exclusion characteristics of collagen, we developed a gel filtration-like procedure that uses columns containing collagen from tendon and bone. The elution volumes of test molecules show the volume within the packed column that is accessible to the test molecules, and therefore reveal the size exclusion characteristics of the collagen within the column. These experiments show that molecules smaller than a 6-kDa protein diffuse into all of the water within the collagen fibril, whereas molecules larger than a 40-kDa protein are excluded from this water. These studies provide an insight into the mechanism of bone mineralization. Molecules and apatite crystals smaller than a 6-kDa protein can diffuse into all water within the fibril and so can directly impact mineralization. Although molecules larger than a 40-kDa protein are excluded from the fibril, they can initiate mineralization by forming small apatite crystal nuclei that diffuse into the fibril, or can favor fibril mineralization by inhibiting apatite growth everywhere but within the fibril.

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