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J Biol Chem. 1995 Apr 21;270(16):9486-93.

Alternative mRNA processing occurs in the variable region of the pro-alpha 1(XI) and pro-alpha 2(XI) collagen chains.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham 35294, USA.


An analysis was performed of differential splicing of primary transcripts in the noncollagenous variable region located in the amino terminus of the pro-alpha 1(XI) and pro-alpha 2(XI) collagen chains. The results for the pro-alpha 2(XI) chain showed that human cartilage or fibroblasts in culture contain transcripts in which a single highly acidic exon encoding for 21 amino acids is present or absent. For the chicken pro-alpha 1(XI) chain a more complex pattern of alternative splicing was detected with six possible variants. Of special interest was the alternative use of two exons (called IIA and IIB) in which IIA encodes for 39 amino acids and is highly acidic (estimated pI = 3.2), whereas IIB encodes for 49 amino acids and is highly basic (estimated pI = 10.6). A similar alternative use of exon IIA or exon IIB was also observed for human chondrocytes. Northern blotting with probes specific for IIA or IIB showed that both exons are present in transcripts from cartilage but exon IIB is preferentially utilized in transcripts from tendon. Present results suggest that both the pro-alpha 1(XI) and pro-alpha 2(XI) chains of type XI collagen undergo limited processing in vivo and that the noncollagenous variable region is initially retained on the surface of the fibrils. Differential splicing in the variable region may potentially influence the interaction of collagen fibrils with other molecules of the extracellular matrix and more specifically with sulfated glycosaminoglycan chains or with hyaluronan. Such interactions may play a key role in establishing both the organization of the collagen fibrils within the extracellular matrix and in limiting the diameter of collagen fibrils.

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