Regulation of cellular functions by extracellular matrix

J Am Soc Nephrol. 1992 Apr;2(10 Suppl):S83-7. doi: 10.1681/ASN.V210s83.


Multicellular organisms are formed by specialized cells assembled in tissues. Individual cells contact and interact with other cells and with the extracellular matrix--a network of secreted proteins and carbohydrates that fills the intercellular spaces. The extracellular matrix helps cells to bind together and regulates a number of cellular functions, such as adhesion, migration, proliferation, and differentiation. It is formed by macromolecules, locally secreted by resident cells. The two main classes of macromolecules are polysaccharide glycosaminoglycans, usually covalently linked to proteins in the form of proteoglycans, and fibrous proteins of two functional types, structural (collagen, elastin) and adhesive (fibronectin, laminin, vitronectin, etc.). Receptors for extracellular matrix macromolecules are present in virtually all of the cells studied. They belong to the superfamily of integrins, alpha beta heterodimers, which, in most cases, recognize the Arg-Gly-Asp sequence of extracellular matrix proteins. On the exterior side of the cell, integrins link an extracellular matrix macromolecule, whereas in the cytosol, they bind the cytoskeleton, thereby forming a membrane bridge between extracellular and intracellular fibers. This structure enables the cell to adhere to the substratum. Similar to hormone- or growth factor-receptor binding, the interaction of the integrin with its specific ligand induces immediate signal transduction and influences cellular activities.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Polysaccharides
  • Proteins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface