A network model for the organization of type IV collagen molecules in basement membranes

Eur J Biochem. 1981 Nov;120(2):203-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1432-1033.1981.tb05690.x.


Type IV collagen was solubilized from a tumor basement membrane either by acid extraction or by limited digestion with pepsin. The two forms were similar in composition and the size of the constituent chains but differed when examined by electron microscopy and in the fragment pattern produced by bacterial collagenase. The acid-soluble form showed after rotary shadowing strands mainly of a length of 320 nm which terminated in a globule, or two strands connected by a similar globule. The globule was identified as a non-collagenous domain (NC1) which under dissociating conditions could be separated into two peptides showing a monomer-dimer relationship. Higher aggregates of NC1 were visualized under non-dissociating conditions. Some of the acid-extracted molecules have retained the previously 7-S collagen domain. The pepsin-solubilized form lacked domain NC1 and consisted mainly of four triple-helical strands (length 356 nm) joined together at the 7-S domain (length 30 nm). Common to both forms of type IV collagen was a small collagenase-resistant domain NC2 which was composed of collagenous and non-collagenous elements and located between the 7-S domain and the major triple helix. These data indicate that the collagenous matrix of basement membranes consists of a regular network of type IV collagen molecules which is generated by two different interacting sites located at opposite ends of each molecule. The 7-S collagen domain connects four molecules while the NC1 domain connects two molecules. The maximal distance between identical cross-linking sites (7-S or NC1) was estimated to be about 800 nm comprising the length of two molecules.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basement Membrane / metabolism*
  • Binding Sites
  • Collagen / metabolism*
  • Immunochemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Microbial Collagenase / immunology
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Models, Biological*
  • Protein Conformation


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Collagen
  • Microbial Collagenase