Thrombospondins: old players, new games

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Purpose of review

Thrombospondins (TSPs) are secreted extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins from TSP family, which consists of five homologous members. They share a complex domain structure and have numerous binding partners in ECM and multiple cell surface receptors. Information that has emerged over the past decade identifies TSPs as important mediators of cellular homeostasis, assigning new important roles in cardiovascular pathology to these proteins.

Recent findings

Recent studies of the functions of TSP in the cardiovascular system, diabetes and aging, which placed several TSPs in a position of critical regulators, demonstrated the involvement of these proteins in practically every aspect of cardiovascular pathophysiology related to atherosclerosis: inflammation, immunity, leukocyte recruitment and function, function of vascular cells, angiogenesis, and responses to hypoxia, ischemia and hyperglycemia. TSPs are also critically important in the development and ultimate outcome of the complications associated with atherosclerosis – myocardial infarction, and heart hypertrophy and failure. Their expression and significance increase with age and with the progression of diabetes, two major contributors to the development of atherosclerosis and its complications.


This overview of recent literature examines the latest information on the newfound functions of TSPs that emphasize the importance of ECM in cardiovascular homeostasis and pathology. The functions of TSPs in myocardium, vasculature, vascular complications of diabetes, aging and immunity are discussed.

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