Mechanical injury to connective tissue causes changes in collagen structure and material behaviour, but the role and mechanisms of molecular damage have not been established. In the case of mechanical subfailure damage, no apparent macroscale damage can be detected, yet this damage initiates and potentiates in pathological processes. Here, we utilize collagen hybridizing peptide (CHP), which binds unfolded collagen by triple helix formation, to detect molecular level subfailure damage to collagen in mechanically stretched rat tail tendon fascicle. Our results directly reveal that collagen triple helix unfolding occurs during tensile loading of collagenous tissues and thus is an important damage mechanism. Steered molecular dynamics simulations suggest that a likely mechanism for triple helix unfolding is intermolecular shearing of collagen α-chains. Our results elucidate a probable molecular failure mechanism associated with subfailure injuries, and demonstrate the potential of CHP targeting for diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of tissue disease and injury.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Chemistry
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Physics and Astronomy