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Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2009 Jan 1;14:1414-32.

The assembly and maintenance of epithelial junctions in C. elegans.

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Program in Genetics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.


The epithelial tissues of the C. elegans embryo provide a "minimalist" system for examining phylogenetically conserved proteins that function in epithelial polarity and cell-cell adhesion in a multicellular organism. In this review, we provide an overview of three major molecular complexes at the apical surface of epithelial cells in the C. elegans embryo: the cadherin-catenin complex, the more basal DLG-1/AJM-1 complex, and the apical membrane domain, which shares similarities with the subapical complex in Drosophila and the PAR/aPKC complex in vertebrates. We discuss how the assembly of these complexes contributes to epithelial polarity and adhesion, proteins that act as effectors and/or regulators of each subdomain, and how these complexes functionally interact during embryonic morphogenesis. Although much remains to be clarified, significant progress has been made in recent years to clarify the role of these protein complexes in epithelial morphogenesis, and suggests that C. elegans will continue to be a fruitful system in which to elucidate functional roles for these proteins in a living embryo.

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