Fibrillin-rich microfibrils of the extracellular matrix: ultrastructure and assembly

Micron. 2001 Feb;32(2):185-200. doi: 10.1016/s0968-4328(99)00082-7.


Fibrillin-rich microfibrils are a unique class of extensible connective tissue macromolecules. Their critical contribution to the establishment and maintenance of diverse extracellular matrices was underlined by the linkage of their principal structural component fibrillin to Marfan syndrome, a heritable connective tissue disorder with pleiotropic manifestations. Microscopy and preparative techniques have contributed substantially to the understanding of microfibril structure and function. The supramolecular organisation of microfibrillar assemblies in tissues has been examined by tissue sectioning and X-ray diffraction methods. Published findings are discussed and new information reported on the organisation of microfibrils in the ciliary zonular fibrils by environmental scanning electron microscopy. This review summarises microscopy and X-ray diffraction studies that are informing current understanding of the ultrastructure of fibrillin-rich microfibrils.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ectopia Lentis / genetics
  • Elasticity
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / genetics
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / ultrastructure*
  • Fibrillins
  • Humans
  • Marfan Syndrome / genetics
  • Microfibrils / ultrastructure*
  • Microfilament Proteins / genetics
  • Microfilament Proteins / ultrastructure*
  • Models, Structural


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Fibrillins
  • Microfilament Proteins