Extracellular matrix and cytokines: a functional unit

Dev Immunol. 2000;7(2-4):89-101. doi: 10.1155/2000/31748.


The extracellular matrix (ECM) as well as soluble mediators like cytokines can influence the behavior of cells in very distinct as well as cooperative ways. One group of ECM molecules which shows an especially broad cooperativity with cytokines and growth factors are the proteoglycans. Proteoglycans can interact with their core proteins as well as their glycosaminoglycan chains with cytokines. These interactions can modify the binding of cytokines to their cell surface receptors or they can lead to the storage of the soluble factors in the matrix. Proteoglycans themselves may even have cytokine activity. In this review we describe different proteoglycans and their interactions and relationships with cytokines and we discuss in more detail the extracellular regulation of the activity of transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) by proteoglycans and other ECM molecules. In the third part the interaction of heparan sulfate chains with fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2, basic FGF) as a prototype example for the interaction of heparin-binding cytokines with heparan sulfate proteoglycans is presented to illustrate the different levels of mutual dependence of the cytokine network and the ECM.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / physiology*
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology*
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / physiology
  • Humans
  • Proteoglycans / physiology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology


  • Cytokines
  • Proteoglycans
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2