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Laminins are cell adhesion molecules that comprise a family of glycoproteins found predominantly in basement membranes, which are the thin sheets of extracellular matrix that underlie epithelial and endothelial cells and surround muscle cells, Schwann cells, and fat cells. Many laminins self-assemble to form networks that remain in close association with cells through interactions with cell surface receptors. Laminins are vital for many physiological functions. They are essential for early embryonic development and organogenesis and have crucial functions in several tissues including muscle, nerve, skin, kidney, lung, and the vasculature. A great wealth of data on laminins is available, and an in-depth description is not attempted here. In this review, I will instead provide a snapshot of laminin structure, tissue distribution, and interactions with other matrix molecules and receptors and briefly describe laminin mutations in mice and humans. Several illuminating and timely reviews are cited that can be consulted for references to original articles and more detailed information concerning laminins.
KeywordsBasement membrane Integrin Dystroglycan Development Congenital disease
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