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Bioessays. 2007 Jul;29(7):645-53.

The echinoderm collagen fibril: a hero in the connective tissue research of the 1990s.

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Department of Biology, McDaniel College, 2 College Hill, Westminster, MD 21157, USA.


Collagen fibrils are some of the most-abundant and important extracellular structures in our bodies, yet we are unsure of their shape and size. This is largely due to an inherent difficulty in isolating them from their surrounding tissues. Echinoderms have collagenous tissues that are similar to ours in many ways, yet they can be manipulated to easily relinquish their collagen fibrils, providing an excellent opportunity to study native fibrillar structure. In the early 1990s, they were found to defy the commonly accepted fibrillar model of the time in that they were much shorter, they were shaped like double-ended spindles, and their centers exhibited a reversal in molecular polarity. Realization of these features helped to reform the questions that were being asked about vertebrate fibrils, shifting the focus toward shape and size. Since then, researchers working with both groups (echinoderms and vertebrates) have worked together to find the structure of native fibrils. This information will be fundamental in understanding what holds collagenous tissues together at the fibrillar level, and could have important implications for people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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