Background: In the fruit fly Drosophila, the Inscuteable protein localises to the apical cell cortex in neuroblasts and directs both the apical-basal orientation of the mitotic spindle and the basal localisation of the protein determinants Numb and Prospero during mitosis. Asymmetric localisation of Inscuteable is initiated during neuroblast delamination by direct binding to Bazooka, an apically localised protein that contains protein-interaction motifs known as PDZ domains. How apically localised Inscuteable directs asymmetric cell divisions is unclear.
Results: A novel 70 kDa protein called Partner of Inscuteable (Pins) and a heterotrimeric G-protein alpha subunit were found to bind specifically to the functional domain of Inscuteable in vivo. The predicted sequence of Pins contained tetratrico-peptide repeats (TPRs) and motifs implicated in binding Galpha proteins. Pins colocalised with Inscuteable at the apical cell cortex in interphase and mitotic neuroblasts. Asymmetric localisation of Pins required both Inscuteable and Bazooka. In epithelial cells, which do not express inscuteable, Pins was not apically localised but could be recruited to the apical cortex by ectopic expression of Inscuteable. In pins mutants, these epithelial cells were not affected, but neuroblasts showed defects in the orientation of their mitotic spindle and the basal asymmetric localisation of Numb and Miranda during metaphase. Although localisation of Inscuteable in pins mutants was initiated correctly during neuroblast delamination, Inscuteable became homogeneously distributed in the cytoplasm during mitosis.
Conclusions: Pins and Inscuteable are dependent on each other for asymmetric localisation in delaminated neuroblasts. The binding of Pins to Galpha protein offers the intriguing possibility that Inscuteable and Pins might orient asymmetric cell divisions by localising or locally modulating a heterotrimeric G-protein signalling cascade at the apical cell cortex.