Collagen is a unique, triple helical molecule which forms the major part of extracellular matrix. It is the most abundant protein in the human body, representing 30% of its dry weight. It is the fibrous structural protein that makes up the white fibers (collagen fibers) of skin, tendons, bones, cartilage and all other connective tissues. Collagens are not only essential for the mechanical resistance and resilience of multicellular organisms, but are also signaling molecules defining cellular shape and behavior. The human body has at least 16 types of collagen, but the most prominent types are I, II and III. Collagens are produced by several cell types and are distinguishable by their molecular compositions, morphologic characteristics, distribution, functions and pathogenesis. This is the major fibrous glycoprotein present in the extracellular matrix and in connective tissue and helps in maintaining the structural integrity of these tissues. It has a triple helical structure. Various studies have proved that mutations that modify folding of the triple helix result in identifiable genetic disorders. Collagen diseases share certain similarities with autoimmune diseases, because autoantibodies specific to each collagen disease are produced. Therefore, this review highlights the role of collagen in normal health and also the disorders associated with structural and functional defects in collagen.
Keywords: Autoimmune diseases; collagen; triple helical structure.