Collagen type VI, which forms characteristic microfibrillar structures, is assembled from three individual alpha(VI) chains that form a short triple helix and two adjacent globular domains. Expression of all three alpha (VI) collagen chains in the human bone marrow (BM) microenvironment could be detected by chain-specific antibodies in tissue sections and in the adherent stromal layer of long-term BM cultures. In functional studies, collagen type VI was shown to be a strong adhesive substrate for various hematopoietic cell lines and light-density BM mononuclear cells. The adhesive site within the molecule seems to be restricted to the triple helical domain of all three alpha (VI) chains, because individual alpha (VI) chains were not active in the attachment assays. Adhesion of the hematopoietic cell lines to collagen VI was dose-dependent and could be inhibited by heparin. Although the triple helix contains several RGD sequences, adhesion of the hematopoietic cell types to collagen VI could be blocked neither by RGD-containing peptides nor by a neutralizing antibody to the beta 1 integrin subunit. In combination with an antiadhesive substrate, the binding properties of collagen VI could be downregulated. These data suggest that this collagen type may play an important role in the adhesion of hematopoietic cells within the BM microenvironment.

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