Molecular Structure of the Collagen Fibres


X-RAY studies of the fibrous proteins indicate that they fall almost exclusively into one or other of two main configurational groups, the keratin-myosin group and the collagen group1. The interpretation of the structure and properties of the former group is now well advanced and has frequently been reported on in NATURE and elsewhere, but the structure of the latter, in spite of many investigations, has hitherto remained unexplained. It was suggested several years ago that the amino-acid residues in gelatin (which also gives the typical collagen diffraction pattern) are somehow grouped in threes with probably every third a glycine residue and every ninth a hydroxyproline residue, that the strong meridian arc of spacing about 2.86 A. is associated with the average length of a residue in the direction of the fibre axis, and that such an average length could very well arise from an alternate cis- and trans- configuration2; but further progress was not possible for lack of experimental data. More recent chemical and X-ray evidence points now to a solution that is both simple and convincing.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Astbury, W. T., C.R. Lab. Carlsberg, 22, 45 (1938) (Sørensen Jubilee Vol.); Trans. Faraday Soc., 34, 377 (1938); Ann. Rev. Biochem., 8, 113 (1939); Ann. Rep. Chem. Soc., 35, 198 (1939).

  2. 2

    Astbury, W. T., Trans. Faraday Soc., 29, 193 (1933); Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology, 2, 15 (1934); Chem. Weekbl., 33, 778 (1936). Astbury, W. T., and Atkin, W. R., NATURE, 132, 348 (1933).

  3. 3

    Bergmann, M., J. Biol. Chem., 110, 471 (1935). Bergmann, M., and Niemann, C., ibid., 115, 77 (1936).

  4. 4

    Wyckoff, R. W. G., Corey, R. B., and Biscoe, J., Science, 82, 175 (1935). Corey, R. B., and Wyckoff, R. W. G., J. Biol. Chem., 114, 407 (1936). Wyckoff, R. W. G., and Corey, R. B., Proc. Soc. Expt. Biol. and Med., 34, 285 (1936).

  5. 5

    Clark, G. L., Parker, E. A., Schaad, J. A., and Warren, W. J., J. Amer. Chem. Soc., 57, 1509 (1935).

  6. 6

    Svedberg, T., Proc. Roy. Soc., B, 127, 1 (1939).

  7. 7

    Astbury, W. T., J. Int. Soc. Leather Trades' Chemists (in the press).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

ASTBURY, W., BELL, F. Molecular Structure of the Collagen Fibres. Nature 145, 421–422 (1940).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.