Protein Equilibration Through Somatic Ring Canals in Drosophila

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Science  21 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6139, pp. 1445-1447
DOI: 10.1126/science.1234887

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Lord of the Ring Canal

In Drosophila, some cells maintain direct cytoplasmic connections with their siblings by intercellular bridges known as ring canals that arise from mitotic cleavage furrows. In ovarian follicle cells and imaginal discs, McLean and Cooley (p. 1445, published online 23 May) found that ring canals allowed diffusion of cytoplasmic proteins between cells and across mitotic clone boundaries, which may suggest a role in compensating for transcriptional variation between cells.


Although intercellular bridges resulting from incomplete cytokinesis were discovered in somatic Drosophila tissues decades ago, the impact of these structures on intercellular communication and tissue biology is largely unknown. In this work, we demonstrate that the ~250-nanometer-diameter somatic ring canals permit diffusion of cytoplasmic contents between connected cells and across mitotic clone boundaries and enable the equilibration of protein between transcriptionally mosaic follicle cells in the Drosophila ovary. We obtained similar, although more restricted, results in the larval imaginal discs. Our work illustrates the lack of cytoplasmic autonomy in these tissues and suggests a role for somatic ring canals in promoting homogeneous protein expression within the tissue.

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