An mAb was used in conjunction with immunoelectron microscopy to study the ultrastructure and distribution of the type VI collagen network. Type VI collagen in femoral head and costal cartilage was found distributed throughout the matrix but concentrated in areas surrounding chondrocytes. Three-dimensional information gained from high voltage stereo pair electron microscopy showed that the type VI collagen network in skin was organized into a highly branched, open, filamentous network that encircled interstitial collagen fibers, but did not appear to interact directly with them. Type VI collagen was also found concentrated near basement membranes of nerves, blood vessels, and fat cells although in a less organized state. Labeling was conspicuously reduced close to the epithelial basement membrane in the region of the anchoring fibrils. No labeling of basement membranes was seen. Based on these observations it is suggested that the type VI collagen forms a flexible network that anchors large interstitial structures such as nerves, blood vessels, and collagen fibers into surrounding connective tissues.

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