Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 73–82 | Cite as

Protective Properties of Neural Extracellular Matrix

  • Anne Suttkus
  • Markus Morawski
  • Thomas Arendt


The extracellular matrix (ECM) of the central nervous system (CNS) occupies a large part of the neural tissue. It serves a variety of functions ranging from support of cell migration and regulating synaptic transmission and plasticity to the active modulation of the neural tissue after injury. In addition, evidence for neuroprotective properties of ECM components has accumulated more recently. In contrast to other connective tissues, the central nervous ECM is mainly composed of glycosaminoglycans, which can be present unbound in the form of hyaluronan or bound to proteins, thus forming proteoglycans. A subtype of this molecular family are the chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans (CSPGs), which are composed of a core protein that carries at least one covalently bound glycosaminoglycan side chain with a certain degree of sulphation. Several studies could show neuroprotective features of CSPGs against excitotoxicity, amyloid-ß toxicity, or oxidative stress. Recently, we could provide evidence for a neuroprotective function of a specialized form of ECM, the so-called perineuronal net ensheathing a subtype of neurons. Here, we will give an overview on recently emerging aspects of neuroprotective properties of CSPGs and perineuronal nets that might be relevant for our understanding on the distribution and progression of brain pathology and future perspectives toward modifying neurodegenerative diseases.


Extracellular matrix Neuroprotection Oxidative stress Perineuronal nets Chondroitin sulphate 



This work was granted by the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Leipzig (grant Formel 1), the German Research Foundation MO 2249/2-1 within the PP 1608, and by the EU-COST Action BM1001 “Brain Extracellular Matrix in Health and Disease,” the European Union, the Free State of Saxony (grant number SAB 100154907), and the Alzheimer Forschungsinitiative e.V. (AFI #11861) to M. Morawski.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department for Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration, Paul Flechsig Institute for Brain ResearchUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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