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Plasma Membrane: The Extracellular Matrix

! The tissues of animal cells contain an extracellular matrix, an integrated network of


carbohydrate and protein for support and cell communication. Specific details about the
composition and functions of the matrix are as follows:

Structural support is provided by two main


classes of molecules located outside of the
cell. The first is glycoproteins, membrane
proteins with carbohydrate chains covalently
linked to amino acid side chains. This class of
molecules includes collagen. Over half of our
body’s proteins are comprised of collagen!

The other major component of the matrix is


proteoglycans, a family of glycoproteins that
have a core polypeptide with numerous
carbohydrate chains attached. Proteoglycans
are high in carbohydrate, which may comprise
as much as 95 percent of the weight of the
molecule.

Structural molecules are anchored to cells by


other molecules. Fibronectins are a family
of glycoproteins consisting of two polypeptides
linked by bonds. They bind matrix molecules
to plasma membrane proteins.

Plasma membrane proteins such as integrin


float in the lipid bilayer like icebergs floating in
a sea of fat. Actin filaments underneath the
lipid bilayer bind to plasma membrane
proteins, adding further support to the
extracellular matrix.

Cell signals are created by the physical


perturbation of components of the matrix. It
is hypothesized that certain forms of cancer
may occur when errors in cell signals occur.

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