Prof. Taina Pihlajaniemi & Adj. Prof. Ritva Heljasvaara
Research group information
Research group description
Besides conferring shape and stability to tissues, the extracellular matrix (ECM) plays a crucial role in controlling cell differentiation and function, and it is associated with a wide spectrum of common diseases including skeletal deformities, fibrosis, cancer, poor wound healing as well as neuromuscular and metabolic diseases. The collagen family of proteins plays a dominant role in maintaining the integrity of tissues. Twenty-nine types of collagen have been found in vertebrates, and we address the physiological and pathological significance of two evolutionarily conserved subgroups of collagens, the ubiquitously occurring basement membrane (BM)-associated collagens XV and XVIII, also called the multiplexin subgroup of collagens, and the structurally homologous transmembrane collagens XIII, XXIII and XXV. These collagens perform not only structural functions but also have important regulatory roles in the pericellular environment in supporting cell growth and differentiation.