Assembly of C. elegans apical junctions involves positioning and compaction by LET-413 and protein aggregation by the MAGUK protein DLG-1

J Cell Sci. 2001 Jun;114(Pt 12):2265-77. doi: 10.1242/jcs.114.12.2265.


Specialised subapical junctions play a critical role in maintaining epithelial cell polarity and tissue integrity, and provide a platform for intracellular signalling. Here we analyse the roles of C. elegans genes let-413 and dlg-1, a homologue of Drosophila lethal discs large, in the assembly of the C. elegans apical junction (CeAJ), and provide the first characterisation of this structure. We have identified dlg-1 as an essential gene in an RNA interference screen against C. elegans homologues of genes encoding proteins involved in tight or septate junction formation. We show that DLG-1 colocalises with the junctional protein JAM-1 at CeAJs in a unit distinct from HMP-1/alpha-catenin, and apical to the laterally localised LET-413. Loss of dlg-1 activity leads to JAM-1 mislocalisation and the disappearance of the electron-dense component of the CeAJs, but only mild adhesion and polarity defects. In contrast, loss of let-413 activity leads to the formation of basally extended discontinuous CeAJs and strong adhesion and polarity defects. Interestingly, in LET-413-deficient embryos, CeAJ markers are localised along the lateral membrane in a manner resembling that observed in wild-type embryos at the onset of epithelial differentiation. We conclude that the primary function of LET-413 is to correctly position CeAJ components at a discrete subapical position. Furthermore, we propose that DLG-1 is required to aggregate JAM-1 and other proteins forming the electron-dense CeAJ structure. Our data suggest that epithelial adhesion is maintained by several redundant systems in C. elegans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / embryology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Polarity
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Guanylate Kinases
  • Helminth Proteins / genetics
  • Helminth Proteins / metabolism*
  • Intercellular Junctions / metabolism*
  • Intercellular Junctions / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Models, Biological
  • Nucleoside-Phosphate Kinase / chemistry
  • Nucleoside-Phosphate Kinase / deficiency
  • Nucleoside-Phosphate Kinase / genetics
  • Nucleoside-Phosphate Kinase / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Tight Junctions / metabolism
  • Tight Junctions / ultrastructure
  • alpha Catenin*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • HMP-1 protein, C elegans
  • Helminth Proteins
  • LET-413 protein, C elegans
  • alpha Catenin
  • Nucleoside-Phosphate Kinase
  • Guanylate Kinases