Collagen fibrils in the corneal stroma have been recognised to have a high degree of uniformity of diameter and spatial arrangement compared with those in other mature connective tissues. The precision of this lateral size control has been determined in this study by mass per unit length measurements on fibrils isolated from adult bovine corneal stroma. At the molecular level, however, there are substantial variations in lateral size, both between fibrils and along individual fibrils. The mean mass per unit length was measured to be 304 kDa nm -1, equivalent to 347 collagen molecules in transverse section and had a standard deviation of 8.3%. The variation of lateral size along individual fibrils was measured as a mass slope over ∼7 μm lengths (100 D-periods) and had a mean mass slope equivalent to 0.56 molecules per D-period. Smoothly tapered tips of length ∼7 μm were also observed with a mass slope of about ∼three molecules per D-period. The frequency of these tips was used to estimate a mean fibril length of ∼940 μm in the sample tissue. Observations of molecular polarity within the fibril shafts and tips were used to consider possible models of fibril assembly. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
- collagen fibrils
- diameter limitation
- fibril growth
- scanning transmission electron microscopy