The discovery of cell surface receptors that bind to extracellular matrix (ECM) components marked a new era in biological research. Since then there has been an increasing appreciation of the importance of studying cells in the context of their extracellular environment. Cell behaviour is profoundly affected by the ECM, whose synthesis and turnover must be finely balanced in order to maintain normal function and prevent disease. In the last decade, microRNAs (miRNAs) have emerged as key regulators of ECM gene expression. As new technologies for the identification and validation of miRNA targets continue to be developed, a growing body of data supporting the role of miRNAs in regulating the ECM biology has arisen from a variety of cell and animal models along with clinical studies. However, more recent findings suggest an intriguing interplay between the ECM and miRNAs: not only can miRNAs control the composition of the ECM, but also the ECM can affect the expression of specific miRNAs. Here we discuss how miRNAs contribute to the synthesis, maintenance and remodelling of the ECM during development and disease. Furthermore, we bring to light evidence that points to a role for the ECM in regulating miRNA expression and function.
Keywords: development; disease; extracellular matrix; gene expression; microRNA.
© 2014 The Authors. International Journal of Experimental Pathology © 2014 International Journal of Experimental Pathology.