The effects of mono- and poly-hydric alcohols in the presence of KCl on the intrinsic stability of collagen molecules in dilute acid solution were compared with corresponding solvent and salt effects on the increased stability of the aggregated molecules in salt-precipitated fibrils. Salt addition decreased solubility and increased the thermal stability of fibrils, but progressively decreased the stability of collagen molecules in solution. In contrast, the alcohols enhanced solubility and decreased fibril stability, the effects increasing with solvent hydrocarbon chain length and with decreasing hydroxyl/methylene-group ratio. Molar destabilization of dissolved collagen by alcohols was lower than for fibrils, and at low salt concentration, both ethylene glycol and glycerol were structural stabilizers. Electron-micrograph studies indicated that salt-precipitated fibrils tended to adopt the native aggregation mode, and qualitatively similar solvent effects were observed in insoluble collagens. Implications of the experimental findings are discussed in terms of a model in which electrostatic and apolar interactions mainly govern the excess of stability in collagen fibrils whereas intrinsic stability of single molecules is a function of polar interactions and polypeptide-chain rigidity.

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