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A Polarized Epithelium Organized by β- and α-Catenin Predates Cadherin and Metazoan Origins

Science  11 Mar 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6022, pp. 1336-1339
DOI: 10.1126/science.1199633

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Abstract

A fundamental characteristic of metazoans is the formation of a simple, polarized epithelium. In higher animals, the structural integrity and functional polarization of simple epithelia require a cell-cell adhesion complex that contains a classical cadherin, the Wnt-signaling protein β-catenin and the actin-binding protein α-catenin. We show that the non-metazoan Dictyostelium discoideum forms a polarized epithelium that is essential for multicellular development. Although D. discoideum lacks a cadherin homolog, we identify an α-catenin ortholog that binds a β-catenin–related protein. Both proteins are essential for formation of the epithelium, polarized protein secretion, and proper multicellular morphogenesis. Thus, the organizational principles of metazoan multicellularity may be more ancient than previously recognized, and the role of the catenins in cell polarity predates the evolution of Wnt signaling and classical cadherins.

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