Foetal-bovine nuchal ligament and aorta, together with adult-bovine aorta and pregnant uterus, were extracted under dissociative conditions in the absence and in the presence of a reducing agent. A collagenous glycoprotein of Mr 140000 [designated component 140K(VI)], identified in these extracts as the major periodate/Schiff-positive component, was shown to be related to collagen type VI. Digestion of non-reduced extracts with pepsin yielded periodate/Schiff-positive peptides that, on the basis of their electrophoretic mobilities, amino acid analyses and peptide ‘maps’, were identical with type VI collagen fragments prepared by standard procedures. It is concluded that collagen type VI occurs in vivo as molecule comprising three chains of Mr 140000 in which the helical domains account for about one-third of each polypeptide. Biosynthetic experiments with nuchal-ligament fibroblasts in culture demonstrated that a bacterial-collagenase-sensitive [3H]fucose-labelled glycoprotein, Mr 140000, was immunoprecipitated from culture medium by a specific antibody to the pepsin-derived form of collagen type VI. This result suggests that the collagenous polypeptides [140K(VI) components] represent the biosynthetic precursors of type VI collagen that do not undergo processing to smaller species before deposition in the extracellular matrix. Analyses of 5M-guanidinium chloride extracts of tissues with markedly different elastin contents and at different stages of development suggested that there was no relationship between collagen type VI and elastic-fibre microfibrils, a conclusion supported by the observation that the immunoprecipitated glycoprotein, Mr 140000, was distinct from the glycoprotein MFPI, Mr 150000, believed to be a constituent of these microfibrils [Sear, Grant & Jackson (1981) Biochem. J. 194, 587-598].

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