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Curr Biol. 2008 Sep 9;18(17):1333-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.07.086. Epub 2008 Aug 21.

The C. elegans zonula occludens ortholog cooperates with the cadherin complex to recruit actin during morphogenesis.

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Program in Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1117 W. Johnson Street, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The dramatic cell-shape changes necessary to form a multicellular organism require cell-cell junctions to be both pliable and strong. The zonula occludens (ZO) subfamily of membrane-associated guanylate kinases (MAGUKs) are scaffolding molecules thought to regulate cell-cell adhesion [1-3], but there is little known about their roles in vivo. To elucidate the functional role of ZO proteins in a living embryo, we have characterized the sole C. elegans ZO family member, ZOO-1. ZOO-1 localizes with the cadherin-catenin complex during development, and its junctional recruitment requires the transmembrane proteins HMR-1/E-cadherin and VAB-9/claudin, but surprisingly, not HMP-1/alpha-catenin or HMP-2/beta-catenin. zoo-1 knockdown results in lethality during elongation, resulting in the rupture of epidermal cell-cell junctions under stress and failure of epidermal sheet sealing at the ventral midline. Consistent with a role in recruiting actin to the junction in parallel to the cadherin-catenin complex, zoo-1 loss of function reduces the dynamic recruitment of actin to junctions and enhances the severity of actin filament defects in hypomorphic alleles of hmp-1 and hmp-2. These results show that ZOO-1 cooperates with the cadherin-catenin complex to dynamically regulate strong junctional anchorage to the actin cytoskeleton during morphogenesis.

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