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Curr Biol. 2002 Feb 5;12(3):221-5.

Assembly of epithelial tight junctions is negatively regulated by Par6.

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Center for Cell Signaling and Department of Pharmacology, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA 22908-0577, USA.


Epithelial cells display apical-basal polarity, and the apical surface is segregated from the basolateral membranes by a barrier called the tight junction (TJ). TJs are constructed from transmembrane proteins that form cell-cell contacts-claudins, occludin, and junctional adhesion molecule (JAM)-plus peripheral proteins such as ZO-1. The Par proteins (partitioning-defective) Par3 and Par6, plus atypical protein kinase C (aPKC) function in the formation or maintenance of TJs and more generally in metazoan cell polarity establishment. Par6 contains a PDZ domain and a partial CRIB (Cdc42/Rac interactive binding) domain and binds the small GTPase Cdc42. Here, we show that Par6 inhibits TJ assembly in MDCK II epithelial cells after their disruption by Ca(2+) depletion but does not inhibit adherens junction (AJ) formation. Transepithelial resistance and paracellular diffusion assays confirmed that assembly of functional TJs is delayed by Par6 overexpression. Strikingly, the isolated, N-terminal fragment of PKCzeta, which binds Par6, also inhibits TJ assembly. Activated Cdc42 can disrupt TJs, but neither a dominant-negative Cdc42 mutant nor the CRIB domain of gammaPAK (p21-activated kinase), which inhibits Cdc42 function, observably inhibit TJ formation. These results suggest that Cdc42 and Par6 negatively regulate TJ assembly in mammalian epithelial cells.

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