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Extracellular matrix

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noun, plural: extracellular matrices

The non-cellular portion of a tissue produced and secreted by cells and mainly for providing support


The extracellular matrix is the non-cellular portion of a tissue. It is a collection of extracellular material produced and secreted by cells into the surrounding medium. The main function of the extracellular matrix is to provide structural and biochemical support to the surrounding cells.1 Other functions of the extracellular matrix include cell adhesion, intercellular communication, and segregation of tissues. The role of the extracellular matrix depends on its nature and composition. For instance, the matrix may be mineralised to resist compression (as in bone), or dominated by tension resisting fibers (as in tendon). In animal tissues, the main components of the extracellular matrix are the fibrous elements (e.g. collagen, elastin, reticulin), link proteins (e.g. fibronectin, laminin), and space filling molecules (e.g. glycosaminoglycans). In plant tissues, the extracellular matrix includes cell wall components such as cellulose.2

Abbreviation / Acronym: ECM

See also:

1 Michel, Gurvan; Thierry Tonon; Delphine Scornet; J. Mark Cock; Bernard Kloareg (October 2010). "The cell wall polysaccharide metabolism of the brown alga Ectocarpus siliculosus. Insights into the evolution of extracellular matrix polysaccharides in Eukaryotes". New Phytologist 188 (1): 82–97.
2 Brownlee, Colin (October 2002). "Role of the extracellular matrix in cell-cell signalling: paracrine paradigms". Current Opinion in Plant Biology 5 (5): 396–401.