Melanoma cell adhesion and spreading activities of a synthetic 124-residue triple-helical "mini-collagen"

C. G. Fields, D. J. Mickelson, S. L. Drake, J. B. McCarthy, G. B. Fields

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108 Scopus citations


A great variety of cells, such as melanoma cells, fibroblasts, platelets, keratinocytes, and epithelial cells, adhere to and migrate on specific regions within the triple-helical domains of types I, III, and IV collagen. The relative importance of collagen primary, secondary, and tertiary structures on these cellular activities has not been ascertained, as no general synthetic methodology exists to allow for the study of peptides incorporating biologically active sequences in triple-helical conformation. We have thus developed a novel, generally applicable solid-phase branching methodology for the synthesis of aligned, triple-helical collagen-model polypeptides (i.e. "mini-collagens"). Three nascent peptide chains are carboxyl-terminally linked through one Nα-amino and two Nε-amino groups of Lys, while repeating Gly-Pro-Hyp triplets induce triple helicity. A homotrimeric triple-helical polypeptide (THP) of 124 amino acids, incorporating residues 1263-1277 of α1(IV) collagen, was synthesized. Highly metastatic mouse melanoma cells showed a profound preference for adhesion to this THP as compared with a single-stranded peptide (SSP) incorporating the same type IV collagen sequence or a branched peptide containing eight repeats of Gly-Pro-Hyp (designated GPP*). Specifically, 50% cell adhesion occurred at a THP concentration of 1.12 μM, while comparable levels of adhesion required [SSP] = 170 μM or [GPP*] > 100 μM. Melanoma cells also spread on the THP to a greater extent than on the SSP or GPP*. These results are the first direct demonstrations of the significance of triple helicity for cell adhesion to and spreading on a specific collagen sequence and support earlier conclusions of conformational dependency for cell adhesion to and migration on types I and IV collagen. In addition, the melanoma cell THP activities support the concept that tumor cell adhesion and spreading on type IV collagen involves multiple, distinct domains in triple-helical conformation. The triple-helical peptide synthetic protocol developed here will allow eventually for the study of both structure and biological activity of specific, glycosylated collagen sequences in homotrimeric and heterotrimeric forms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14153-14160
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number19
StatePublished - Jul 5 1993


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