In this brief review we have attempted to describe the known components of basement membranes in relation to the morphology and function of these matrices. Further details of the molecular structures and biosynthesis of these components may be found in original papers and in various reviews (Kefalides, 1973; Spiro, 1976; Kefalides et al., 1979; Heathcote & Grant, 1981).

Although basement membranes appear to contain essentially similar protein and carbohydrate moieties, the proportions and organization of these may differ and, in the opinion of the authors, the key to an understanding of basement membranes lies in the recognition of this heterogeneity. At present, structural models of basement membrane are far from satisfactory and should be regarded with reservation.

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