We made a new type of collagen gel by γ-ray irradiation of an acidic solution of type-I collagen, and performed comparative studies on a conventional gel and the new type of gel. The neutral gel, a conventional 0.3% (w/v) collagen gel, was formed at neutral pH and then
irradiated by γ-rays. The acidic gel, a 0.3% (w/v) collagen gel, was formed directly from the acidic solution of collagen by γ-ray irradiation. Both types of gel were prepared, swollen in water and then dried for the measurement of specific water content. The neutral
gel showed a relatively high specific water content and shrunk moderately, depending on the dose, while the acidic gel showed lower specific water content and shrunk clearly by γ-ray irradiation. A three-dimensional tangled network of microfibrils was clearly observed in the neutral
gels by scanning electron microscopy, but not in the acidic gels. From these results, we concluded that the acidic gel was quite different from a conventional collagen gel. Sodium dodecylsulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis showed that the α 1 subunit and α
2 subunit of the collagen molecule were cross-linked. The triple-helical structure of collagen was only partially perturbed, but not denatured completely, because the circular dichroism spectrum of the collagen solution irradiated at 1.3 kGy was similar to that of native collagen solution.
Amino-acid analysis revealed that tyrosine, phenylalanine and histidine decreased by irradiation in the neutral gel. In the case of the acidic gel, these three amino acids and methionine decreased. We considered that these amino acids were cross-linking points between the collagen subunits
during the γ-ray irradiation.