Special Reviews

Composition and Formation of Intercellular Junctions in Epithelial Cells

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Science  06 Dec 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5600, pp. 1955-1959
DOI: 10.1126/science.1072161

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The polarized nature of epithelial cells is manifested by the nonrandom partitioning of organelles within the cells, the concentration of intercellular junctions at one pole, and the asymmetric distribution of proteins and lipids within the plasma membrane. These features allow epithelia to fulfill their specific tasks, such as targeted uptake and secretion of molecules and the segregation of different tissue compartments. The accessibility ofDrosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans to genetic and cell biological analyses, combined with the study of mammalian cells in culture, provides an ideal basis for understanding the mechanisms that control the establishment and maintenance of epithelial cell polarity and tissue integrity. Here, we focus on some of the best-studied junctions and membrane-associated protein complexes and their relation to cell polarity. Comparisons between fly, worm, and vertebrate epithelia reveal marked similarities with respect to the molecules used, and pronounced differences in the organization of the junctions themselves.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: knust{at}uni-duesseldorf.de, bossinge{at}uni-duesseldorf.de

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