A major function of the extracellular matrix (ECM) is to provide the structural organization and physical support for the cells within the vessel walls, which is tailored for the applied hemodynamic forces and physiologic function of different vascular beds. In this chapter, we provide a brief overview of the primary structure and function of veins, arteries, and capillaries with a focus on differential organization of ECM proteins depending on axial location in the vascular tree and radial location across the vessel wall. The ECM is much more than a passive support, however, providing biological signaling through its soluble and cleaved forms, binding to and regulating the activity of a variety of biologic factors, and affecting cellular phenotype through interactions with transmembrane proteins. We summarize how differential ECM organization supports vessel specific structure and function, beyond passive mechanical support. In the vasculome, the ECM is a critical regulator of vascular function at the level of individual cells, entire organs, and physiologic networks.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Vasculome
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Many, One
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780128225462
ISBN (Print)9780128225479
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • Artery
  • Capillary
  • Collagen
  • Elastin
  • Glycoproteins
  • Proteoglycans
  • Vein


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