The Cell Adhesion Molecule
Laminin is defined by the Webster Medical Dictionary as a "glycoprotein that is a component of connective tissue basement membrane and that promotes cell adhesion." In other words, looking at laminin as a kind of glue isn't far from the truth. There are several different laminins.
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia - Laminin is a protein found in the extracellular matrix, the sheets of protein that form the substrate of all internal organs also called the basement membrane. It is the major non-collagenous component of the basal lamina, such as those on which cells of an epithelium sit. It has four arms that can bind to four other molecules. The three shorter arms are particularly good at binding to other laminin molecules, which is what makes it so great at forming sheets. The long arm is capable of binding to cells, which helps anchor the actual organs to the membrane.
The Laminins, by Peter Elkblom and Rupert Timpl gives more detail about the importance of laminins and their structure. They describe laminins that, together with other proteins, "hold cells and tissues together." They also say, "Electron microscopy reveals a cross-like shape for all laminins investigated so far." They went on to say that in solution the laminin shapes were more like a flower than a cross. The strands of laminins do not always stand straight and at right angles, but they do consists of arms, three of which are short and one of which is long.
Research has been conducted on laminins in connection with numerous conditions and diseases. It has been found, for example, that people with congenital muscular dystrophies do not have laminin-alpha2, which is normally found in the layer of cells around muscle fibers and other cells important to the structural integrity of muscle cells.
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