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Histochem Cell Biol. 2008 Jul;130(1):1-20. doi: 10.1007/s00418-008-0418-7. Epub 2008 Mar 26.

Organization of multiprotein complexes at cell-cell junctions.

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Institute of Medical Biochemistry, Center of Molecular Biology of Inflammation, University Münster, Münster, Germany.


The formation of stable cell-cell contacts is required for the generation of barrier-forming sheets of epithelial and endothelial cells. During various physiological processes like tissue development, wound healing or tumorigenesis, cellular junctions are reorganized to allow the release or the incorporation of individual cells. Cell-cell contact formation is regulated by multiprotein complexes which are localized at specific structures along the lateral cell junctions like the tight junctions and adherens junctions and which are targeted to these site through their association with cell adhesion molecules. Recent evidence indicates that several major protein complexes exist which have distinct functions during junction formation. However, this evidence also indicates that their composition is dynamic and subject to changes depending on the state of junction maturation. Thus, cell-cell contact formation and integrity is regulated by a complex network of protein complexes. Imbalancing this network by oncogenic proteins or pathogens results in barrier breakdown and eventually in cancer. Here, I will review the molecular organization of the major multiprotein complexes at junctions of epithelial cells and discuss their function in cell-cell contact formation and maintenance.

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