Tissue linkage through adjoining basement membranes: The long and the short term of it.
Basement membranes (BMs) are thin dense sheets of extracellular matrix that surround most tissues. When the BMs of neighboring tissues come into contact, they usually slide along one another and act to separate tissues and organs into distinct compartments. However, in certain specialized regions, the BMs of neighboring tissues link, helping to bring tissues together. These BM connections can be transient, such as during tissue fusion events in development, or long-term, as with adult tissues involved with filtration, including the blood brain barrier and kidney glomerulus. The transitory nature of these connections in development and the complexity of tissue filtration systems in adults have hindered the understanding of how juxtaposed BMs fasten together. The recent identification of a BM-BM adhesion system in C. elegans, termed B-LINK (BM linkage), however, is revealing cellular and extracellular matrix components of a nascent tissue adhesion system. We discuss insights gained from studying the B-LINK tissue adhesion system in C. elegans, compare this adhesion with other BM-BM connections in Drosophila and vertebrates, and outline important future directions towards elucidating this fascinating and poorly understood mode of adhesion that joins neighboring tissues.
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