Basement membrane proteins: structure, assembly, and cellular interactions

Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 1992;27(1-2):93-127. doi: 10.3109/10409239209082560.


Basement membranes are thin layers of a specialized extracellular matrix that form the supporting structure on which epithelial and endothelial cells grow, and that surround muscle and fat cells and the Schwann cells of peripheral nerves. One common denominator is that they are always in close apposition to cells, and it has been well demonstrated that basement membranes do not only provide a mechanical support and divide tissues into compartments, but also influence cellular behavior. The major molecular constituents of basement membranes are collagen IV, laminin-entactin/nidogen complexes, and proteoglycans. Collagen IV provides a scaffold for the other structural macromolecules by forming a network via interactions between specialized N- and C-terminal domains. Laminin-entactin/nidogen complexes self-associate into less-ordered aggregates. These two molecular assemblies appear to be interconnected, presumably via binding sites on the entactin/nidogen molecule. In addition, proteoglycans are anchored into the membrane by an unknown mechanism, providing clusters of negatively charged groups. Specialization of different basement membranes is achieved through the presence of tissue-specific isoforms of laminin and collagen IV and of particular proteoglycan populations, by differences in assembly between different membranes, and by the presence of accessory proteins in some specialized basement membranes. Many cellular responses to basement membrane proteins are mediated by members of the integrin class of transmembrane receptors. On the intracellular side some of these signals are transmitted to the cytoskeleton, and result in an influence on cellular behavior with respect to adhesion, shape, migration, proliferation, and differentiation. Phosphorylation of integrins plays a role in modulating their activity, and they may therefore be a part of a more complex signaling system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basement Membrane / physiology*
  • Collagen / physiology
  • Glycoproteins / physiology
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Proteoglycans / physiology
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism


  • Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Proteoglycans
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Collagen