Date of Award

Spring 2003

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Waring, Gail L.

Second Advisor

Karrer, Kathleen M.

Third Advisor

Stuart, Rosemary A.


The extracellular matrix (ECM) was originally described to morphologically consist of fibrils and sheets when initially seen through the electron microscope, but over the past few decades, the composition of the extracellular matrix and its overall role in exerting influence on cellular processes is much more appreciated. On the surface, cells, tissues and organs depend on the mechanical and structural support provided by the extracellular matrix. However, the extracellular matrix also affects cells, tissues and organs by assisting the temporal and spatial regulation of molecules within the extracellular environment that are involved in such behaviors such as migration, proliferation and development (Reichardt, 1999). For example, secreted growth factors and cytokines that are involved in many cell signaling cascades, are released into the extracellular milieu. Many of these molecules associate with the extracellular matrix, which plays an integral role in controlling their release (Streuli, 1999; Taipale and KeskiOja, 1997). With this in mind, the infrastructure found outside the cell, i.e. the extracellular matrix, must be assembled appropriately to provide proper structural and mechanical support, along with the ability to properly regulate "signaling molecules" in the correct time and space. Appreciation of how proteins come together and assemble to form a stable environment will provide a greater understanding to how the extracellular matrix contributes to the health of the organism...



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