The extracellular matrix (ECM) of the developing heart contains numerous molecules that form a dynamic environment that plays an active and crucial role in the regulation of cellular events. ECM molecules found in the heart include hyaluronan, fibronectin, fibrillin, proteoglycans, and collagens. Tight regulation of the spatiotemporal expression, and the proteolytic processing of ECM components by proteases including members of the ADAMTS family, is essential for normal cardiac development. Perturbation of the expression of genes involved in matrix composition and remodeling can interfere with a myriad of events involved in the formation of the four-chambered heart and result in prenatal lethality or cardiac malformations as seen in humans with congenital heart disease. In this review, we summarize what is known about the specific importance of some of the components of the ECM in relation to the cardiovascular development.
Copyright © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.