Basement membranes are delicate, nanoscale and pliable sheets of extracellular matrices that often act as linings or partitions in organisms. Previously considered as passive scaffolds segregating polarized cells, such as epithelial or endothelial cells, from the underlying mesenchyme, basement membranes have now reached the center stage of biology. They play a multitude of roles from blood filtration to muscle homeostasis, from storing growth factors and cytokines to controlling angiogenesis and tumor growth, from maintaining skin integrity and neuromuscular structure to affecting adipogenesis and fibrosis. Here, we will address developmental, structural and biochemical aspects of basement membranes and discuss some of the pathogenetic mechanisms causing diseases linked to abnormal basement membranes.
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