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, 282 (5741), 878-80

Quasi-hexagonal Molecular Packing in Collagen Fibrils

Quasi-hexagonal Molecular Packing in Collagen Fibrils

D J Hulmes et al. Nature.


Collagen molecules in native 66.8 nm (D) periodic fibrils are widely believed to be assembled into discrete, rope-like substructures, or microfibrils. Several types of microfibril have been proposed (2, 4, 5, 7- and 8-stranded) mainly on the basis of information contained in the medium angle X-ray diffraction patterns of native tendon fibres. These patterns show a series of equatorial and near-equatorial Bragg reflections which indicate that the collagen molecules are arranged on a three-dimensional crystalline lattice. The 4-stranded, 5-stranded and 8-stranded microfibrils are D-periodic with approximate diameter 3.8 nm, and these and the 2-stranded model are supposed to be packed on a three-dimensional lattice whose basal unit cell, (approximately) perpendicular to the fibril axis, is tetragonal (or quasi-tetragonal)with side a, a square root 2 or 2a, where a is approximately 3.8 nm. In this paper we describe a re-interpretation of the X-ray data which leads to a new model for the crystalline regions of the fibril, based on quasi-hexagonal molecular packing without microfibrillar sub-structures, and hence having the character of a molecular crystal.

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