Nidogens/entactins are a family of highly conserved, sulfated glycoproteins. Biochemical studies have implicated them as having a major structural role in the basement membrane. However despite being ubiquitous components of this specialized extracellular matrix and having a wide spectrum of binding partners, genetic analysis has shown that they are not required for the overall architecture of the basement membrane. Rather in development they play an important role in its stabilization especially in tissues undergoing rapid growth or turnover. Nidogen breakdown has been implicated as a key event in the basement membrane degradation occurring in mammary gland involution. A number of studies, most compellingly those in C. elegans, demonstrated that nidogens may have other nonstructural roles and be involved in axonal pathfinding and synaptic transmission.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.