In type III collagen the main triple-helical domain is followed by a disulfide knot and the C-terminal propeptide, which are both essential for nucleation, stabilization and registration of the triple helix. We demonstrate that oxidative inter-chain disulfide bridging does not occur between the knot sequences GlyProCysCysGly of dissociated randomly coiled chains. N-terminal fusion of the obligatory trimeric domain of mini-fibritin is able to direct this process efficiently, demonstrating a folded precursor mechanism in which the thiol groups have to be properly placed for the formation of native disulfide bonds. The natural C-propeptide domain may act in a similar way as the mini-fibritin domain. After disulfide linkage and triple-helix formation the catalyzing mini-fibritin domain was removed by thrombin cleavage. In this way a short but stable triple-helical collagen fragment was expressed in Escherichia coli for structural and functional studies.