Similarity in structure between C1q and the collectins as judged by electron microscopy

Behring Inst Mitt. 1993 Dec;(93):6-16.


The collectins are carbohydrate binding proteins which, like C1q, contain collagen-like sequences. The collectins belong to group III of the family of lectins containing C-type carbohydrate recognition domains (CRDs). The structural similarity between the collectins and C1q is clearly demonstrated by electron microscopy in that they all contain multiple polypeptides which are organised into subunits containing triple-helical stalks throughout their collagen-like regions and globular 'heads' in the C-terminal regions. Four, or six, of these structures are associated via distinct, short, N-terminal regions to form the oligomeric molecules seen in the electron microscope. The overall structural similarity between C1q and the collectins, however, does not extend to similarity in amino acid sequences over the C-terminal regions. The C-terminal regions of C1q, unlike those of the collectins, do not contain the conserved residues found in the CRDs present in the C-type lectins. Instead, C1q has a high degree of homology to collagen sequences (Type VIII and X) and this is consistent with the fact that, unlike the collectins, C1q binds to protein motifs in IgG, or IgM, rather than to carbohydrate structures. Also, despite sometimes showing interruptions in their collagen-like regions, the collectins do not always display a 'bend' in their collagen-like 'stalks' similar to that which is seen in C1q. Therefore, C1q may be more closely related to collagens than to the collectins. The collectins can be classed into two distinct group, with MBP and SP-A being hexamers and SP-D, conglutinin and collectin-43 (CL-43) being tetramers, with proteins in the latter group also having significantly larger dimensions with respect to the length of their collagen-like 'stalks'.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / chemistry
  • Carrier Proteins / ultrastructure*
  • Collectins
  • Complement C1q / chemistry
  • Complement C1q / ultrastructure*
  • Glycoproteins / chemistry
  • Glycoproteins / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Lectins / chemistry
  • Lectins / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Models, Structural
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein D
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / chemistry
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / ultrastructure
  • Serum Globulins / chemistry
  • Serum Globulins / ultrastructure


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Collectins
  • Glycoproteins
  • Lectins
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein D
  • Pulmonary Surfactants
  • Serum Globulins
  • conglutinin
  • Complement C1q