Basement membranes (BMs) are a complex, sheet-like network of specialized extracellular matrix that underlies epithelial cells and surrounds muscle cells. They provide adherence between neighboring tissues, permit some flexibility of these adherent structures, and can act as a store for growth factors and as a guide for cell migration. The BM is not just a static structure; its deposition and remodeling are important for many processes including embryonic development, immune response, and wound healing. To date, dysfunction in BM deposition or remodeling has been linked to many human congenital disorders and diseases, affecting many different tissues in the body, including malformations, dystrophies, and cancer. However, many questions remain to be answered on the role BM proteins, and their mutations, play in the pathogenesis of human disease. In recent years, the zebrafish (Danio rerio) has emerged as a powerful animal model for human development and disease. In the first part of this chapter, we provide an overview of described defects caused by BM dysfunction in zebrafish, including development and function of notochord, muscle, central nervous system, skin, cardiovascular system, and kidney. In the second part, we will describe details of methods used to visualize and assess the structure of the BM in zebrafish, and to functionally analyze its different components. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.
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