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Dev Cell. 2005 May;8(5):787-94.

Repression of cell-cell fusion by components of the C. elegans vacuolar ATPase complex.

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Department of MCD Biology, Neuroscience Research Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, 93106, USA.


Cell-cell fusion initiates fertilization, sculpts tissues during animal development, reprograms stem cells to new differentiated states, and may be a key step in cancer progression. While cell fusion is tightly regulated, the mechanisms that limit fusion to appropriate partners are unknown. Here, we report that the fus-1 gene is essential to repress fusion of epidermal cells in C. elegans: in severe fus-1 mutants, all epidermal cells, except the lateral seam cells, inappropriately fuse into a single large syncytium. This hyperfusion requires EFF-1, an integral membrane protein essential for fusion of epidermal cells into discrete syncytia. FUS-1 is localized to the apical plasma membrane in all epidermal cells potentiated to undergo fusion, whereas it is virtually undetectable in nonfusing seam cells. fus-1 encodes the e subunit of the vacuolar H(+)-ATPase (V-ATPase), and loss of other V-ATPase subunits also causes widespread hyperfusion. These findings raise the possibility of manipulating cell fusion by altering V-ATPase activity.

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