In a previous communication (Biosci. Rep. 3, 517–525, 1993) we described quantitative X-ray diffraction studies of α-keratin which were shown to be consistent with the presence of finite arrays of repeating units, successive arrays being set down at axial intervals of 470 Å. In addition the axial interval between repeating units in an array was shown to be 197.9 Å. It was suggested that this could most readily be explained by supposing that a surfacelattice was present which contained a dislocation along a helical path with unit height h = 470 Å and unit twist |t| = 49.1°. The number of repeating units was shown to be in the range 7–9. With 7 repeats the mismatch of the lattice along the dislocation is small and this choice was used to develop a detailed model for the filament. Subsequent studies of molecular interactions have shown however that the coiled-coil rope segments in the rod domain of the molecule are most probably oriented parallel to the dislocation, and so minimization of lattice mismatch may be less important than originally supposed. In the present communication it is shown that the choice of 8, rather than 7, for the number of repeating units yields a model which is more compatible with estimates of the linear density and also provides the basis for a general model for polymorphism in intermediate filament lattices.

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