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Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2011 Mar;300(3):F589-601. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00615.2010. Epub 2011 Jan 12.

Protein complexes that control renal epithelial polarity.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


Establishment of epithelial apicobasal polarity is crucial for proper kidney development and function. In recent years, there have been important advances in our understanding of the factors that mediate the initiation of apicobasal polarization. Key among these are the polarity complexes that are evolutionarily conserved from simple organisms to humans. Three of these complexes are discussed in this review: the Crumbs complex, the Par complex, and the Scribble complex. The apical Crumbs complex consists of three proteins, Crumbs, PALS1, and PATJ, whereas the apical Par complex consists of Par-3, Par-6, and atypical protein kinase C. The lateral Scribble complex consists of Scribble, discs large, and lethal giant larvae. These complexes modulate kinase and small G protein activity such that the apical and basolateral complexes signal antagonistically, leading to the segregation of the apical and basolateral membranes. The polarity complexes also serve as scaffolds to direct and retain proteins at the apical membrane, the basolateral membrane, or the intervening tight junction. There is plasticity in apicobasal polarity, and this is best seen in the processes of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and the converse mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition. These transitions are important in kidney disease as well as kidney development, and modulation of the polarity complexes are critical for these transitions.

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