The Fras1/Frem family of extracellular matrix proteins: structure, function, and association with Fraser syndrome and the mouse bleb phenotype

Connect Tissue Res. 2008;49(3):277-82. doi: 10.1080/03008200802148025.


Fras1 and the structurally related proteins Frem1, Frem2, and Frem3, comprise a novel family of extracellular matrix proteins, which localize in a similar fashion underneath the lamina densa of epithelial basement membranes. They are involved in the structural adhesion of the skin epithelium to its underlying mesenchyme. Deficiency in the individual murine Fras1/Frem genes gives rise to the bleb phenotype, which is equivalent to the human hereditary disorder Fraser syndrome, characterized by cryptophthalmos (hidden eyes), embryonic skin blistering, renal agenesis, and syndactyly. Recent studies revealed a functional cooperation between the Fras1/Frem gene products, in which Fras1, Frem1 and Frem2 are simultaneously stabilized at the lowermost region of the basement membrane by forming a macromolecular ternary complex. Loss of any of these proteins results in the collapse of the protein assembly, thus providing a molecular explanation for the highly similar phenotypic defects displayed by the respective mutant mice. Here, we summarize the current knowledge regarding the structure, function, and interplay between the proteins of the Fras1/Frem family and further propose a possible scenario for the evolution of the corresponding genes.

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple / genetics*
  • Abnormalities, Multiple / metabolism
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Basement Membrane / cytology
  • Basement Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Blister / genetics
  • Blister / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / chemistry
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / deficiency
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / genetics
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism*
  • Eye Abnormalities / genetics
  • Eye Abnormalities / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Syndrome


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Fras1 protein, mouse
  • Frem1 protein, mouse
  • Frem2 protein, mouse
  • Grip1 protein, mouse
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins