Citation Wess TJ & Cairns D (2005) Nanoarchitectures of the animal extracellular matrix: opportunities for synchrotron radiation studies on collagen and fibrillin. Journal of Synchrotron Radiation, 12 (6), pp. 751-757. https://doi.org/10.1107/S0909049505012306
Abstract The extracellular matrix comprises structures that support the architectural organization of virtually all animal tissues. Within this architecture, two classes of protein assemblies found as long slender fibrils (collagen and fibrillin) characterize the bulk of the extracellular matrix. In both classes of fibrous protein, the molecular organization within a fibril ensures that the properties of the individual molecules transcend to the nanostructural and mesoscopic levels of structural organization and thence the tissue itself. The composition of the fibrils, in conjunction with other biomolecules and their suprafibrillar architecture, facilitates the formation of tissues as diverse as skin, tendon, cornea ciliary zonules and aorta. Here the relative tear resistance, strength, transparency and optical properties are paramount for proper function. Many structural investigations of fibrous protein structure have relied heavily on the use of synchrotron radiation in order to elucidate molecular packing, primarily due to the distinct benefits that X-ray diffraction provides, such as minimal sample preparation, rapid data collection and in situ mechanical testing. In this paper, an overview of the investigations that have revealed different levels of molecular architecture in fibril-based tissues is presented. Emerging future technology and how this can be matched with the pressing questions in extracellular matrix biology are also discussed.