Extracellular Matrix


The extracellular matrix is the component of tissue that lies immediately outside and between cells in animals and plants.

Keywords: ECM; cellulose; collagens; proteoglycans; adhesion

Figure 1.

Diagram of an idealized animal tissue showing the two main types of ECM: a basement membrane underlying the epithelial cells of the tissue and a stromal ECM surrounding the cells of the mesenchymal part of the tissue.

Figure 2.

The structure of focal adhesions. The top part of the figure shows a cell migrating on an ECM substrate, while the main figure illustrates the focal adhesions made between the cell and the ECM. FAK, focal adhesion kinase.



Davies J, Lyon M, Gallagher J and Garrod D (1995) Sulphated proteoglycan is required for collecting duct growth and branching but not nephron formation during kidney development. Development 121: 1507–1517.

Edwards GM, Wilford FH, Liu X et al. (1998) Regulation of mammary differentiation by extracellular matrix involves protein‐tyrosine phosphatases. Journal of Biological Chemistry 273: 9495–9500.

Kreidberg JA, Donovan MJ, Goldstein SL et al. (1996) α3β1 integrin has a crucial role in kidney and lung organogenesis. Development 122: 3537–3547.

Nakanishi Y, Ishii T (1989) Epithelial shape change in mouse embryonic submandibular gland: modulation by extracellular matrix components. BioEssays 11: 163–167.

Pullan S, Wilson J, Metcalfe A et al. (1996) Requirement of basement membrane for the suppression of programmed cell death in mammary epithelium. Journal of Cell Science 109: 631–642.

Underhill CB (1993) Hyaluronan is inversely correlated with the expression of CD44 in the dermal condensation of the embryonic hair follicle. Journal of Investigative Dermatology 101: 820–826.

Further Reading

Ayad S, Boot‐Handford RP, Humphries MJ, Kadler KE and Shuttleworth CA (1998) The Extracellular Matrix Facts Book, 2nd edn. London: Academic Press. [A comprehensive list and brief description of all animal ECM molecules.]

Bard JBL (1991) Morphogenesis, chap. 5. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Chadwick DJ and Goode JA (eds) (1995) The Molecular Biology and Pathology of Elastic Tissues. CIBA Symposium 192. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons. [A more advanced text.]

Cosgrave DJ (1997) Assembly and enlargement of the primary cell wall in plants. Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology 13: 171–202.[A comprehensive review.]

Lodish H, Baltimore D, Berk A et al. (1995) Molecular Cell Biology, chap. 24. New York: Scientific American Books. [A good basic text.]

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Davies, Jamie A(Apr 2001) Extracellular Matrix. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001274]