Basement Membranes in the Worm: A Dynamic Scaffolding that Instructs Cellular Behaviors and Shapes Tissues.
The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans has all the major basement membrane proteins found in vertebrates, usually with a smaller gene family encoding each component. With its powerful forward genetics, optical clarity, simple tissue organization, and the capability to functionally tag most basement membrane components with fluorescent proteins, C. elegans has facilitated novel insights into the assembly and function of basement membranes. Although basement membranes are generally thought of as static structures, studies in C. elegans have revealed their active properties and essential functions in tissue formation and maintenance. Here, we review discoveries from C. elegans development that highlight dynamic aspects of basement membrane assembly, function, and regulation during organ growth, tissue polarity, cell migration, cell invasion, and tissue attachment. These studies have helped transform our view of basement membranes from static support structures to dynamic scaffoldings that play broad roles in regulating tissue organization and cellular behavior that are essential for development and have important implications in human diseases.
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