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Development. 2003 Dec;130(24):5989-99.

Distinct sites in E-cadherin regulate different steps in Drosophila tracheal tube fusion.

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Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Center for Molecular Neuroscience, Program in Developmental Biology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville TN 37232-2175, USA.


We have investigated how E-cadherin controls the elaboration of adherens junction associated cytoskeletal structures crucial for assembling tubular networks. During Drosophila development, tracheal branches are joined at branch tips through lumens that traverse doughnut-shaped fusion cells. Fusion cells form E-cadherin contacts associated with a track that contains F-actin, microtubules, and Shot, a plakin that binds F-actin and microtubules. Live imaging reveals that fusion occurs as the fusion cell apical surfaces meet after invaginating along the track. Initial track assembly requires E-cadherin binding to beta-catenin. Surprisingly, E-cadherin also controls track maturation via a juxtamembrane site in the cytoplasmic domain. Fusion cells expressing an E-cadherin mutant in this site form incomplete tracks that contain F-actin and Shot, but lack microtubules. These results indicate that E-cadherin controls track initiation and maturation using distinct, evolutionarily conserved signals to F-actin and microtubules, and employs Shot to promote adherens junction-associated cytoskeletal assembly.

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