The extracellular matrix as a key regulator of intracellular signalling networks

Br J Pharmacol. 2019 Jan;176(1):82-92. doi: 10.1111/bph.14195. Epub 2018 Apr 19.


The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a salient feature of all solid tissues within the body. This complex, acellular entity is composed of hundreds of individual molecules whose assembly, architecture and biomechanical properties are critical to controlling the behaviour and phenotype of the different cell types residing within tissues. Cells are the basic unit of life and the core building block of tissues and organs. At their simplest, they follow a set of rules, governed by their genetic code and effected through the complex protein signalling networks that these genes encode. These signalling networks assimilate and process the information received by the cell to control cellular decisions that govern cell fate. The ECM is the biggest provider of external stimuli to cells and as such is responsible for influencing intracellular signalling dynamics. In this review, we discuss the inclusion of ECM as a central regulatory signalling sub-network in computational models of cellular decision making, with a focus on its role in diseases such as cancer. LINKED ARTICLES: This article is part of a themed section on Translating the Matrix. To view the other articles in this section visit

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction*