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Development. 2014 Feb;141(4):899-908. doi: 10.1242/dev.102160.

The transmembrane protein Macroglobulin complement-related is essential for septate junction formation and epithelial barrier function in Drosophila.

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Institute of Molecular Life Sciences and PhD Program in Molecular Life Sciences, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland.


Occluding cell-cell junctions in epithelia form physical barriers that separate different membrane domains, restrict paracellular diffusion and prevent pathogens from spreading across tissues. In invertebrates, these functions are provided by septate junctions (SJs), the functional equivalent of vertebrate tight junctions. How the diverse functions of SJs are integrated and modulated in a multiprotein complex is not clear, and many SJ components are still unknown. Here we report the identification of Macroglobulin complement-related (Mcr), a member of the conserved α-2-macroglobulin (α2M) complement protein family, as a novel SJ-associated protein in Drosophila. Whereas α2M complement proteins are generally known as secreted factors that bind to surfaces of pathogens and target them for phagocytic uptake, Mcr represents an unusual α2M protein with a predicted transmembrane domain. We show that Mcr protein localizes to lateral membranes of epithelial cells, where its distribution overlaps with SJs. Several SJ components are required for the correct localization of Mcr. Conversely, Mcr is required in a cell-autonomous fashion for the correct membrane localization of SJ components, indicating that membrane-bound rather than secreted Mcr isoforms are involved in SJ formation. Finally, we show that loss of Mcr function leads to morphological, ultrastructural and epithelial barrier defects resembling mutants lacking SJ components. Our results, along with previous findings on the role of Mcr in phagocytosis, suggest that Mcr plays dual roles in epithelial barrier formation and innate immunity. Thus, Mcr represents a novel paradigm for investigating functional links between occluding junction formation and pathogen defense mechanisms.


Alpha-2-macroglobulin; CD109; Complement; Drosophila melanogaster; Epithelial barrier; Innate immunity; Septate junction; Thioester proteins

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