The C-propeptides of collagen propeptide chains are essential for the association of three peptide chains into a trimeric but non-helical procollagen. This initial binding event determines the composition of the trimer, brings the individual chains into the correct register and initiates formation of the triple helix at the C-terminus, which then proceeds towards the N-terminus in a zipper-like fashion (Engel & Prockop 1991). Most early refolding studies were performed with collagen type III, which contains a disulfide linkage at the C-terminus of its triple helix (Bächinger et al. 1978, Bruckner et al. 1978) that acts as a permanent linker even after removal of the non-collagenous domains.
Mutations within the C-propeptides further suggest that they are crucial for the correct interaction of the three polypeptide chains and for subsequent correct folding (refs. in Boudko et al. 2011).