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Histol Histopathol. 2012 Jun;27(6):693-705.

Extracellular matrix, biotensegrity and tumor microenvironment. An update and overview.

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  • 1Pathology Department, Medical School, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain.


The extracellular matrix (ECM) constitutes a three-dimensional network that surrounds all cells, organs and tissues in the body. It forms a biophysical filter for protection, nutrition and cell innervation, as well as the medium for facilitating immune response, angiogenesis, fibrosis and tissue regeneration. It is the mechanism by which mechanical forces are transmitted to the basement membrane which, through the integrins, supports the tensegrity system and activates the epigenetic mechanisms of the cell. A review and update on current knowledge on this topic reveals how disturbance of the ECM leads to a loss of efficient filtering, nutrition, elimination, and cell denervation functions, in addition to loss of regeneration capacity and disorders in mechanotransduction. Furthermore, such disturbance results in a loss of substrate, and with it the ability to provide a proper immune response against tumor, toxic and infectious agents. Reciprocal communication between ECM stromal and parenchymatous cells directs gene expression. The oncogenic capacity of the stroma derives from the associated cells as well as from the tumor cells, the angiogenic microenvironment and from an alteration in tensegrity; all of which are dependent on the ECM. It has been shown that the malignant phenotype is reversible by correction of the altered cues of the ECM.

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