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EMBO J. 1982;1(6):725-32.

Different modes of internalization of proteins associated with adhaerens junctions and desmosomes: experimental separation of lateral contacts induces endocytosis of desmosomal plaque material.


The distribution and fate of two junctional complexes, zonula adhaerens and desmosomes, after dissociation of cell-cell contacts is described in MDBK cells. Junctions were split between adjacent cells by treatment with EGTA and proteins associated with the plaques of zonulae adhaerentes and desmosomes were localized by immunological methods. Splitting of these junctions is accompanied by the dislocation of desmosomal plaque protein from the cell periphery and its distribution in punctate arrays over the whole cytoplasm. By contrast, vinculin associated with zonulae adhaerentes is still seen at early times (0.5-1 h) in a conspicuous belt-like structure which, however, is displaced from the plasma membrane. Strong vinculin staining is maintained on leading edges of free cell surfaces. Electron microscopy of EGTA-treated cells exposed to colloidal gold particles reveals the disappearance of junctional structures from the cell periphery and the concomitant appearance of a distinct class of gold particle-containing vesicles which are coated by dense plaques. These vesicle plaques react with antibodies to desmosomal plaque proteins and are associated with filaments of the cytokeratin type. In the same cells, extended dense aggregates are seen which are most probably the membrane-detached vinculin-rich material from the zonula adhaerens . The experiments show that, upon release from their junction-mediated connections with adjacent cells, major proteins associated with the cytoplasmic side of the junctions remain, for several hours, clustered within plaques displaced from the cell surface. While plaque material of adhaerens junctions containing vinculin is recovered in large belt-like aggregates, desmosomal plaque protein remains attached to membrane structures and appears on distinct vesicles endocytotically formed from half-desmosomal equivalents.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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