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Matrix Biol. 2001 Feb;20(1):13-22.

The structure and function of tenascins in the nervous system.

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Department of Neurobiology, Im Neuenheimer Feld 364, D-69120, Heidelberg, Germany.


The tenascins are a family of large extracellular matrix glycoproteins that comprise five known members. Three of these, tenascin-C (TN-C) tenascin-R (TN-R) and tenascin-Y (TN-Y) are expressed in specific patterns during nervous system development and are down-regulated after maturation. The expression of TN-C, the best studied member of the family, persists in restricted areas of the nervous system that exhibit neuronal plasticity and is reexpressed after lesion. Numerous studies in vitro suggest specific roles for tenascins in the nervous system involving precursor cell migration, axon growth and guidance. TN-C has been shown to occur in a large number of isoform variants generated by combinatorial variation of alternatively spliced fibronectin type III (FNIII) repeats. This finding indicates that TN-C might specify neural microenvironments, a hypothesis supported by recent analysis of TN-C knockout animals, which has begun to reveal subtle nervous system dysfunctions.

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