DOI: 10.1242/bio.059980 ISSN: 2046-6390

Basement membrane dynamics and mechanics in tissue morphogenesis

Uwe Töpfer
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


The basement membrane (BM) is a thin, planar-organized extracellular matrix that underlies epithelia and surrounds most organs. During development, the BM is highly dynamic and simultaneously provides mechanical properties that stabilize tissue structure and shape organs. Moreover, it is important for cell polarity, cell migration, and cell signaling. Thereby BM diverges regarding molecular composition, structure, and modes of assembly. Different BM organization leads to various physical features. The mechanisms that regulate BM composition and structure and how this affects mechanical properties are not fully understood. Recent studies show that precise control of BM deposition or degradation can result in BMs with locally different protein densities, compositions, thicknesses, or polarization. Such heterogeneous matrices can induce temporospatial force anisotropy and enable tissue sculpting. In this Review, I address recent findings that provide new perspectives on the role of the BM in morphogenesis.

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