This paper describes the topographic distribution of the multiple mRNAs coding for a novel human short-chain collagen, the alpha 1 chain of type XIII collagen. To identify the tissues and cells expressing these mRNAs, human fetal tissues of 15-19 gestational wk were studied by Northern and in situ hybridizations. The distribution pattern of the type XIII collagen mRNAs was compared with that of fibrillar collagen types I, II, and III using specific human cDNA probes for each collagen type. Northern hybridization showed the bone, cartilage, intestine, skin, and striated muscle to contain mRNAs for type XIII collagen. An intense in situ hybridization signal was obtained with the type XIII collagen cDNAs in the epidermis, hair follicles, and nail root cells of the skin, whereas the fibrillar collagen mRNAs were detected in the dermis. Cells in the intestinal mucosal layer also appeared to contain high levels of alpha 1(XIII) collagen mRNAs, but contained none of the fibrillar collagen mRNAs. In the bone and striated muscle, alpha 1(XIII) collagen mRNAs were detected in the mesenchymal cells forming the reticulin fibers of the bone marrow and endomycium. The hybridization signal obtained with the alpha 1(XIII) collagen cDNA probe in cartilaginous areas of the growth plates was similar, but less intense, to that obtained with the type II collagen probe. A clear hybridization signal was also detected at the (pre)articular surfaces and at the margins of the epiphyses, whereas it was weaker in the resting chondrocytes in the middle of the epiphyses. The brain, heart, kidney, liver, lung, placenta, spleen, testis, tendon, and thymus did not appear to contain alpha 1(XIII) collagen mRNAs.

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