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Collagen is a group of naturally occurring proteins. In nature, it is found exclusively in animals, especially in the flesh and connective tissues of mammals.[1] It is the main component of connective tissue, and is the most abundant protein in mammals,[2] making up about 25% to 35% of the whole-body protein content. Collagen, in the form of elongated fibrils, is mostly found in fibrous tissues such as tendon, ligament and skin, and is also abundant in cornea, cartilage, bone, blood vessels, the gut, and intervertebral disc.

In muscle tissue it serves as a major component of endomysium. Collagen constitutes 1% to 2% of muscle tissue, and accounts for 6% of the weight of strong, tendinous muscles.[3] Gelatin, which is used in food and industry, is collagen that has been irreversibly hydrolyzed.


History and background

The molecular and packing structures of collagen have eluded scientists over decades of research. The first evidence that it possesses a regular structure at the molecular level was presented in the mid-1930s.[4][5] Since that time many prominent scholars, including Nobel laureates Crick, Pauling, Rich and Yonath and others including Brodsky, Berman, and Ramachandran, concentrated on the conformation of the collagen monomer. Several competing models, although correctly dealing with the conformation of each individual peptide chain, gave way to the triple-helical "Madras" model which provided an essentially correct model of the molecule's quaternary structure[6][7][8] although this model still required some refinement.[9][10][11][12] The packing structure of collagen has not been defined to the same degree outside of the fibrillar collagen types, although it has been long known to be hexagonal ...or quasi-hexagonal.[13][14][15] As with its monomeric structure, several conflicting models alleged that either the packing arrangement of collagen molecules is 'sheet-like' or microfibrillar.[16][17] The microfibrillar structure of collagen fibrils in tendon, cornea and cartilage has been directly imaged by electron microscopy.[18][19][20] In 2006, it was confirmed that the microfibrillar structure of adult tendon as described by Fraser, Miller, Wess (amongst others) was closest to the observed structure, although it over-simplified the topological progression of neighboring collagen molecules and hence did not predict the correct conformation of the discontinuous D-periodic pentameric arrangement termed simply: the microfibril.[21]

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