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Mech Dev. 2010 Jul-Aug;127(7-8):345-57. doi: 10.1016/j.mod.2010.04.002. Epub 2010 Apr 9.

Mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition of intercalating cells in Drosophila renal tubules depends on polarity cues from epithelial neighbours.

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Institut de Biologia Molecular de Barcelona-CSIC, Parc Cientific de Barcelona, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.


The intercalation of mesenchymal cells into epithelia, through mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (MET), underlies organogenesis, for example, in nephrogenesis, and tissue regeneration, during cell renewal and wound repair. Despite its importance, surprisingly little is known about the mechanisms that bring about MET in comparison with the related and much-studied, reverse process, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). We analyse the molecular events that regulate MET as stellate cells integrate into the established epithelium of the developing renal tubules in Drosophila. We show that stellate cells polarise as they integrate between epithelial principal cells and that the normal, localised expression of cell polarity proteins in principal cells is required for stellate cells to become epithelial. While the basolateral and apical membranes act as cues for stellate cell polarity, adherens junction integrity is required to regulate their movement through the epithelium; in the absence of these junctions stellate cells continue migrating into the tubule lumen. We also show that expression of basolateral proteins in stellate cells is a prerequisite for their ingression between principal cells. We present a model in which the contacts with successive principal cell membrane domains made by stellate cells as they integrate between them act as a cue for the elaboration of stellate cell polarity. We suggest that the formation of zonula adherens junctions between new cell neighbours establishes their apico-basal positions and stabilises them in the epithelium.

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