The role of astrocyte-secreted matricellular proteins in central nervous system development and function

J Cell Commun Signal. 2009 Dec;3(3-4):167-76. doi: 10.1007/s12079-009-0078-y. Epub 2009 Nov 11.


Matricellular proteins, such as thrombospondins (TSPs1-4), SPARC, SPARC-like1 (hevin) and tenascin C are expressed by astrocytes in the central nervous system (CNS) of rodents. The spatial and temporal expression patterns of these proteins suggest that they may be involved in important developmental processes such as cell proliferation and maturation, cell migration, axonal guidance and synapse formation. In addition, upon injury to the nervous system the expression of these proteins is upregulated, suggesting that they play a role in tissue remodeling and repair in the adult CNS. The genes encoding these proteins have been disrupted in mice. Interestingly, none of these proteins are required for survival, and furthermore, there are no evident abnormalities at the gross anatomical level in the CNS. However, detailed analyses of some of these mice in the recent years have revealed interesting CNS phenotypes. Here we will review the expression of these proteins in the CNS. We will discuss a newly described function for thrombospondins in synapse formation in the CNS in detail, and speculate whether other matricellular proteins could play similar roles in nervous system development and function.