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Cell. 2001 Sep 7;106(5):633-45.

Argosomes: a potential vehicle for the spread of morphogens through epithelia.

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Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Pfotenhauerstrasse-108, 01307, Dresden, Germany.


The formation of morphogen gradients is essential for tissue patterning. Morphogens are released from producing cells and spread through adjacent tissue; paradoxically, however, many morphogens, including Wingless, associate tightly with the cell membrane. Here, we describe a novel cell biological mechanism that disperses membrane fragments over large distances through the Drosophila imaginal disc epithelium. We call these membrane exovesicles argosomes. Argosomes are derived from basolateral membranes and are produced by many different regions of the disc. They travel through adjacent tissue where they are found predominantly in endosomes. Wingless protein colocalizes with argosomes derived from Wingless-producing cells. The properties of argosomes are consistent with their being a vehicle for the spread of Wingless protein.

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