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Eur J Biochem. 1984 Mar 1;139(2):401-10.

Subunit structure and assembly of the globular domain of basement-membrane collagen type IV.


The globular domain of collagen IV was solubilized by collagenase digestion from a mouse tumor, human placenta and bovine aorta and was purified by chromatographic methods. The materials show a unique, mainly non-collagenous amino acid composition and contain small amounts of glucosamine and galactosamine. The globular structures with Mr = 170 000 appear as a hexameric assembly originating from two collagen IV molecules. Subunits of this assembly are two different dimers Da and Db (Mr about 56 000) and monomers (Mr = 28 000). Their N-terminal amino acid sequences start with short triple-helical sequences, which overlap with the C-terminal triple helix of the alpha 1(IV) and alpha 2(IV) chain, demonstrating that the globule originates from the C terminus of collagen IV. Dimers arise from monomers by disulfide cross-linking (form Db) and/or formation of non-reducible cross-links (form Da). Reduction under non-denaturing conditions causes partial dissociation of the globule and of collagen IV dimers, indicating that reducible cross-links are formed between monomers of two different collagen IV molecules. Dissociation of the hexamer into the subunits can be achieved with 8 M urea, sodium dodecyl sulfate or in the pH range 2.5-4. The latter indicates that carboxyl groups are essential for association. Mixtures of the subunits (monomers and dimers) or purified dimers reassemble in neutral buffer into hexamers as shown by ultracentrifugation and electron microscopy. Reconstituted hexamers, however, dissociate in a much broader pH range than the native globules. Circular dichroic spectra indicate that the structure is more completely refolded from acid-treated than from urea-treated material. These data suggest that globules originating from monomers (as existing in single collagen IV molecules) are stabilized by the adjacent triple helix. Covalent cross-link formation stabilizes the globular structure and allows reconstitution in stoichiometric proportions.

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