We have identified two distinct collagenous macromolecules in extracts of fetal bovine skin. Each of the molecules appears to contain three identical alpha-chains with short triple-helical domains of approximately 25 kD, and nontriple-helical domains of approximately 190 kD. Consistent with these observations, extracted molecules contain a relatively short triple-helical domain (75 nm) and a large globular domain comprised of three similar arms. Despite these similarities, the purified collagenase-resistant domains are distinguished by a number of criteria. The globular domains can be chromatographically separated on the basis of charge distribution. Peptide profiles generated by V8 protease digestion are dissimilar. These molecules are immunologically unique and have distinct distributions in tissue. Finally, rotary shadow analysis of purified domains identifies size and conformation differences. Structurally, the molecules are very similar to type XII collagen, but differ in tissue distribution, since both these molecules are present in cartilage, while type XII is reported to be absent from that tissue.

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