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Curr Biol. 2010 Feb 23;20(4):322-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.12.061. Epub 2010 Feb 11.

CRT-1/calreticulin and the E3 ligase EEL-1/HUWE1 control hemidesmosome maturation in C. elegans development.

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Department of Cell Biology and Development, Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, CNRS/INSERM/UdS, 1 rue Laurent Fries, BP 10142, 67400 Illkirch, France.


Hemidesmosomes connect the extracellular matrix (ECM) to intermediate filaments through ECM receptors and plakins (plectin and BPAG1e). They affect tissue integrity, wound healing, and carcinoma invasion. Although biochemical and time-lapse studies indicate that alpha6beta4-integrin (ECM receptor) and plectin play a central role in modulating hemidesmosome disassembly, the mechanisms controlling hemidesmosome biogenesis in vivo remain poorly understood. The nematode C. elegans provides a powerful genetic model to address this issue. We performed a genome-wide RNA interference screen in C. elegans, searching for genes that decrease the viability of a weak VAB-10A/plakin mutant. We identified 14 genes that have human homologs with predicted roles in different cellular processes. We further characterized two genes encoding the chaperone CRT-1/calreticulin and the HECT domain E3 ubiquitin ligase EEL-1/HUWE1. CRT-1 controls by as little as 2-fold the abundance of UNC-52/perlecan, an essential hemidesmosome ECM ligand. Likewise, EEL-1 fine tunes by 2-fold the abundance of myotactin, the putative hemidesmosome ECM receptor. CRT-1 and EEL-1 activities, and by extension other genes identified in our screen, are essential during embryonic development to enable hemidesmosomes exposed to mechanical tension to mature into a tension-resistant form. Our findings should help understand how hemidesmosome dynamics are regulated in vertebrate systems.

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