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Macrofibrils, the main structural features within the cortical cells of mammalian hair shafts, are long composite bundles of keratin intermediate filaments (KIFs) embedded in a matrix of keratin-associated proteins. The KIFs can be helically arranged around the macrofibril central axis, making a cylinder within which KIF helical angle relative to macrofibril axis increases approximately linearly from macrofibril centre to edge. Mesophase-based self-assembly has been implicated in the early formation of macrofibrils, which first appear as liquid-crystal tactoids in the bulb of hair follicles. Formation appears to be driven initially by interactions between pre-keratinized KIFs. Differences in the nature of these KIF-KIF interactions could result in all macrofibrils being internally twisted in a single handedness, or a 50:50 mixture of handedness within each cortical cell. We data-mined 41 electron tomograms containing three-dimensional macrofibril data from previously published studies of hair and wool. In all 644 macrofibrils examined we found that within each tomogram all macrofibrils had the same handedness. We concluded that earlier reports of left- and right-handed macrofibrils were due to artefacts of imaging or data processing. A handedness marker was used to confirm (using re-imaged sections from earlier studies) that, in both human and sheep, all macrofibrils are left-handed around the macrofibril axis. We conclude that this state is universal within mammalian hair. This also supports the conclusion that the origin of macrofibril twist is the expression of chiral twisting forces between adjacent KIFs, rather than mesophase splay and bending forces relaxing to twisting forces acting within a confined space.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Journal of structural biology
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A class of fibrous proteins or scleroproteins that represents the principal constituent of EPIDERMIS; HAIR; NAILS; horny tissues, and the organic matrix of tooth ENAMEL. Two major conformational groups have been characterized, alpha-keratin, whose peptide backbone forms a coiled-coil alpha helical structure consisting of TYPE I KERATIN and a TYPE II KERATIN, and beta-keratin, whose backbone forms a zigzag or pleated sheet structure. alpha-Keratins have been classified into at least 20 subtypes. In addition multiple isoforms of subtypes have been found which may be due to GENE DUPLICATION.
A type I keratin expressed in a variety of EPITHELIUM, including the ESOPHAGUS, the TONGUE, the HAIR FOLLICLE and NAILS. Keratin-16 is normally found associated with KERATIN-6. Mutations in the gene for keratin-6 have been associated with PACHYONYCHIA CONGENITA, TYPE 1.
A family of bacteria consisting of flexible helical cells exhibiting a right-handed conformation. It consists of a single genus, LEPTOSPIRA.