The basement membranes (BMs) of the nervous system include (a) the pial BM that surrounds the entire CNS, (b) the BMs that outline the vascular system of the CNS and PNS and (c) the BMs that are associated with Schwann cells. We previously found that isolated BMs are bi-functionally organized, whereby the two surfaces have different compositional, biomechanical and cell adhesion properties. To find out whether the bi-functional nature of BMs has an instructive function in organizing the tissue architecture of the developing nervous system, segments of human BMs were inserted into (a) the parasomitic mesoderm of chick embryos, intersecting with the pathways of axons and neural crest cells, or (b) into the midline of the embryonic chick spinal cord. The implanted BMs integrated into the embryonic tissues within 24h and were impenetrable to growing axons and migrating neural crests cells. Host axons and neural crest cells contacted the epithelial side but avoided the stromal side of the implanted BM. When the BMs were inserted into the spinal cord, neurons, glia cells and axons assembled at the epithelial side of the implanted BMs, while a connective tissue layer formed at the stromal side, resembling the tissue architecture of the spinal cord at the pial surface. Since the spinal cord is a-vascular at the time of BM implantation, we propose that the bi-functional nature of BMs has the function of segregating epithelial and connective cells into two adjacent compartments and participates in establishing the tissue architecture at the pial surface of the CNS.
Keywords: Basement membrane; Collagen IV; Extracellular matrix; Extracellular matrix proteins; Laminin.
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