Letter | Published:

Structure of Collagen



A DETAILED X-ray study of collagen fibres obtained from different sources (namely, shark ray, rat tail tendon and kangaroo tail tendon) and a re-examination of the published wide-angle patterns indicate that the unit cell of collagen is hexagonal with a = 12–16 A. and c = 9.5–9 A., the actual values depending on the moisture content. The essential difference of this indexing from those reported earlier1–3 is that the 2.86-A. meridional arc is here interpreted not as a true meridional reflexion, but as arising from the superposition of two close non-meridional reflexions. A calculation of the angular spread of the arc, using the tilt of the c-axis deduced from the spread of the equatorial reflexions, confirms this interpretation. Table 1 shows the good agreement between the calculated and observed spacings of an air–dried and a wet specimen from kangaroo tail tendon.

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  1. 1

    Astbury, W. T., J. Int. Soc. Leather Chem., 24, 69 (1940).

  2. 2

    Pauling, L., and Corey, R. B., Proc. U.S. Nat. Acad. Sci., 37, 272 (1951).

  3. 3

    Bear, R. S., “Advances in Protein Chemistry”, 7, 69 (1953).

  4. 4

    Corey, R. B., and Pauling, L., Proc. Roy. Soc., B, 141, 10 (1953).

  5. 5

    Randall, J. T., Fraser, R. D. B., and North, A. C. T., Proc. Roy. Soc., B, 141, 62 (1953).

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