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Thrombospondins (TSPs) belong to a functional class of ECM proteins called matricellular proteins that are not primarily structural, but instead influence cellular interactions within the local extracellular environment. The 3D arrangement of TSPs allow interactions with other ECM proteins, sequestered growth factors, and cell surface receptors. They are expressed in mesenchymal condensations and limb buds during skeletal development, but they are not required for patterning. Instead, when absent, there are alterations in musculoskeletal connective tissue ECM structure, organization, and function, as well as altered skeletal cell phenotypes. Both functional redundancies and unique contributions to musculoskeletal tissue structure and physiology are revealed in mouse models with compound TSP deletions. Crucial roles of individual TSPs are revealed during musculoskeletal injury and regeneration. The interaction of TSPs with mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), and their influence on cell fate, function, and ultimately, musculoskeletal phenotype, suggest that TSPs play integral, but as yet poorly understood roles in musculoskeletal health. Here, unique and overlapping contributions of trimeric TSP1/2 and pentameric TSP3/4/5 to musculoskeletal cell and matrix physiology are reviewed. Opportunities for new research are also noted. Copyright © 2023 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Andrea I Alford, Kurt D Hankenson. Thrombospondins modulate cell function and tissue structure in the skeleton. Seminars in cell & developmental biology. 2024 Mar 01;155(Pt B):58-65

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PMID: 37423854

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