Author(s): Gelse K
The extracellular matrix represents a complex alloy of variable members of diverse protein families defining structural integrity and various physiological functions. The most abundant family is the collagens with more than 20 different collagen types identified so far. Collagens are centrally involved in the formation of fibrillar and microfibrillar networks of the extracellular matrix, basement membranes as well as other structures of the extracellular matrix. This review focuses on the distribution and function of various collagen types in different tissues. It introduces their basic structural subunits and points out major steps in the biosynthesis and supramolecular processing of fibrillar collagens as prototypical members of this protein family. A final outlook indicates the importance of different collagen types not only for the understanding of collagen-related diseases, but also as a basis for the therapeutical use of members of this protein family discussed in other chapters of this issue.