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Collagen Cross-Links

Stabilization of collagen occurs extracellularly, after its assembly into the quarter-stagger arrays that make up filaments, fibrils, and fibers. The stabilization and ultimate tensile strength of the fiber structure are thought to result mainly from the development of intramolecular and intermolecular cross-links.

The former occur between α chains of the individual tropocollagen molecule and the latter between adjacent tropocollagen molecules. The cross-links result from enzyme-mediated reactions involving mainly lysine and hydroxylysine.

The details of the bifunctional, trifunctional, or quadrifunctional cross-links so created are beyond the scope of this discussion but are available in several relevant reviews.

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