Unlabeled collagenous proteins were quantified as inhibitors of binding of native, soluble, radioiodinated type I collagen to the fibroblast surface. Collagen types IV, V a minor cartilage isotype (1 alpha 2 alpha 3 alpha), and the collagenlike tail of acetylcholinesterase did not inhibit binding. Collagen types II and III behaved as competitive inhibitors of type I binding. Denaturation of native collagenous molecules exposed cryptic inhibitory determinants in the separated constituent alpha chains. Inhibition of binding by unlabeled type I collagen was not changed by enzymatic removal of the telopeptides. Inhibitory determinants were detected in cyanogen bromide-derived peptides from various regions of helical alpha 1 (I) and alpha 1(III) chains. The aminoterminal propeptide of chick pro alpha 1(I) was inhibitory for binding, whereas the carboxyterminal three-chain propeptide fragment of human type I procollagen was not. The data are discussed in terms of the proposal that binding to surface receptors initiates the assembly of periodic collagen fibrils in vivo.

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