Yang L. - Micromechanical analysis of native and cross-linked collagen type I fibrils support the existence of microfibrils

L. Yang, K.O. van der Werf, P.J. Dijkstra, J. Feijen, M.L. Bennink,∗

Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials 2012

Abstract

The mechanical properties of individual collagen fibrils of approximately 200 nm in diameter were determined using a slightly adapted AFM ystem. Single collagen fibrils immersed in PBS buffer were attached between an AFM cantilever and a glass surface to perform tensile tests at different strain rates and stress relaxation measurements. The stress–strain behavior of collagen fibrils immersed in PBS buffer comprises a toe region up to a stress of 5 MPa, followed by the heel and linear region at higher stresses. Hysteresis and strain-rate dependent stress–strain behavior of collagen fibrils were observed, which suggest that single collagen fibrils have viscoelastic properties. The stress relaxation process of individual collagen fibrils could be best fitted using a two-term Prony series. Furthermore, the influence of different cross-linking agents on the mechanical properties of single collagen fibrils was investigated. Based on these results, we propose that sliding of microfibrils with respect to each other plays a role in the viscoelastic behavior of collagen fibrils in addition to the sliding of collagen molecules with respect to each other. Our finding provides a better insight into the relationship between the structure and mechanical properties of collagen and the micro-mechanical behavior of tissues.