The bio-mechanical requirements to which the connective tissue is subjected suggest that a causal correlation exist between the substructure and the collagen fibril function. We discuss the relationship between the inner structure of collagen fibrils, their diameter, their spatial layout and the functional requirements they have to withstand, and suggest that collagen fibrils may belong to two different forms indicated as “T-type” and “C-type”. The first class, consisting of large, heterogeneous fibrils, parallely tightly packed, subjected to tensile stress along their axis is found in highly tensile structures such as tendons, ligaments and bone. The other class, consisting of small, homogeneous fibrils, helically arranged, resisting multidirectional stresses, is mostly present within highly compliant tissues such as blood vessel walls, skin and nerve sheaths. What causes these architectures to appear is discussed in detail in this review. q 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Collagen fibril; Packing; Diameter distribution; Fibril arrangement