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Dev Biol. 2009 May 15;329(2):201-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.02.030. Epub 2009 Mar 6.

Lipocalin signaling controls unicellular tube development in the Caenorhabditis elegans excretory system.

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Department of Genetics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Unicellular tubes or capillaries composed of individual cells with a hollow lumen perform important physiological functions including fluid or gas transport and exchange. These tubes are thought to build intracellular lumina by polarized trafficking of apical membrane components, but the molecular signals that promote luminal growth and luminal connectivity between cells are poorly understood. Here we show that the lipocalin LPR-1 is required for luminal connectivity between two unicellular tubes in the Caenorhabditis elegans excretory (renal) system, the excretory duct cell and pore cell. Lipocalins are a large family of secreted proteins that transport lipophilic cargos and participate in intercellular signaling. lpr-1 is required at a time of rapid luminal growth, it is expressed by the duct, pore and surrounding cells, and it can function cell non-autonomously. These results reveal a novel signaling mechanism that controls unicellular tube formation, and provide a genetic model system for dissecting lipocalin signaling pathways.

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