"CCN" is an acronym referring to the first letter of each of the first three members of this original group of mammalian functionally and phylogenetically distinct extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins [i.e., cysteine-rich 61 (CYR61), connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), and nephroblastoma-overexpressed (NOV)]. Although "CCN" genes are unlikely to have arisen from a common ancestral gene, their encoded proteins share multimodular structures in which most cysteine residues are strictly conserved in their positions within several structural motifs. The CCN genes can be subdivided into members developmentally indispensable for embryonic viability (e.g., CCN1, 2 and 5), each assuming unique tissue-specific functions, and members not essential for embryonic development (e.g., CCN3, 4 and 6), probably due to a balance of functional redundancy and specialization during evolution. The temporo-spatial regulation of the CCN genes and the structural information contained within the sequences of their encoded proteins reflect diversity in their context and tissue-specific functions. Genetic association studies and experimental anomalies, replicated in various animal models, have shown that altered CCN gene structure or expression is associated with "injury" stimuli--whether mechanical (e.g., trauma, shear stress) or chemical (e.g., ischemia, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, inflammation). Consequently, increased organ-specific susceptibility to structural damages ensues. These data underscore the critical functions of CCN proteins in the dynamics of tissue repair and regeneration and in the compensatory responses preceding organ failure. A better understanding of the regulation and mode of action of each CCN member will be useful in developing specific gain- or loss-of-function strategies for therapeutic purposes.