The biosynthesis of collagen by the A204 cell line was examined using polyclonal antibodies raised against collagen type V and type XI. The study of the pepsin-digested collagen showed that it is composed mainly of α1(XI) and α2(V) collagen chains in an apparent 2:1 ratio, suggesting the formation of heterotypic molecules [α1(XI)]2α2(V). The existence of this chain stoichiometry was further demonstrated by immunoprecipitation of the molecule with an antibody recognizing α2(V) but not α1(XI) collagen chains.
Electron microscopy analyses of 24-h cultures showed that this matrix is composed of thin fibrils, that can be decorated with immunogold-labelled anti-(type-V collagen) IgG, but not with anti-(type-XI collagen) IgG. The collagen matrix laid down by A204 cells is highly insoluble. In the presence of β-aminopropionitrile, an inhibitor of lysyl oxidase, only a small proportion of intact collagen could be extracted without proteolytic treatment. Immunoblotting of intact medium collagen from cultures performed in the presence of β-aminopropionitrile showed four distinct bands with each antibody. The migration of the bands, stained with anti-(type-V collagen) IgG, had apparent molecular masses of 127, 149, 161 and 198 kDa (compared to globular standards) while the bands stained with anti-(type-XI collagen) IgG had apparent masses of 145, 182, 207 and 225 kDa.
These data indicate that type-V and type-XI collagen chains can assemble in heterotypic isoforms. In this system, the synthesized isoforms are able to aggregate into a highly cohesive matrix and they undergo a proteolytic processing closely similar to that of other fibrillar collagens.