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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 179784, 16 pages
Review Article

Skin Basement Membrane: The Foundation of Epidermal Integrity—BM Functions and Diverse Roles of Bridging Molecules Nidogen and Perlecan

1Department of Dermatology, University of Cologne, Kerpener Strasse 62, 50937 Cologne, Germany
2DGZ, Post Office Box, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Im Neuenheimer Feld 280, 69009 Heidelberg, Germany

Received 10 August 2012; Revised 18 January 2013; Accepted 28 January 2013

Academic Editor: George E. Plopper

Copyright © 2013 Dirk Breitkreutz et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The epidermis functions in skin as first defense line or barrier against environmental impacts, resting on extracellular matrix (ECM) of the dermis underneath. Both compartments are connected by the basement membrane (BM), composed of a set of distinct glycoproteins and proteoglycans. Herein we are reviewing molecular aspects of BM structure, composition, and function regarding not only (i) the dermoepidermal interface but also (ii) the resident microvasculature, primarily focusing on the per se nonscaffold forming components perlecan and nidogen-1 and nidogen-2. Depletion or functional deficiencies of any BM component are lethal at some stage of development or around birth, though BM defects vary between organs and tissues. Lethality problems were overcome by developmental stage- and skin-specific gene targeting or by cell grafting and organotypic (3D) cocultures of normal or defective cells, which allows recapitulating BM formation de novo. Thus, evidence is accumulating that BM assembly and turnover rely on mechanical properties and composition of the adjacent ECM and the dynamics of molecular assembly, including further “minor” local components, nidogens largely functioning as catalysts or molecular adaptors and perlecan as bridging stabilizer. Collectively, orchestration of BM assembly, remodeling, and the role of individual players herein are determined by the developmental, tissue-specific, or functional context.