Cubilin and megalin are cell surface proteins that work cooperatively in many absorptive epithelia to mediate endocytosis of lipoproteins, vitamin carriers, and other proteins. Here we have investigated the coordinate expression of these receptors during mouse development. Our findings indicate that while there are sites where the receptors are co-expressed, there are other tissues where expression is not overlapping. Apical cubilin expression is pronounced in the extraembryonic visceral endoderm (VE) of 6-9.5 days postcoitum (dpc) embryos. By contrast, little megalin expression is evident in the VE at 6 dpc. However, megalin expression in the VE increases as development progresses (7.5-9.5 dpc), although it is not as uniformly distributed as cubilin. Punctate expression of megalin is also apparent in the region of the ectoplacental cone associated with decidual cells, whereas cubilin expression is not seen in association with the ectoplacenta. Strong expression of megalin is observed in the neural ectoderm, neural plate and neural tube (6-8.5 dpc), but cubilin expression is not apparent in any of these tissues. At 8.5 dpc, megalin is expressed in the developing endothelial cells of blood islands, whereas cubilin is absent from these cells. Finally, cubilin, but not megalin, is expressed by a subpopulation of cells dispersed within the 7.5 dpc embryonic endoderm and having a migratory morphology. In summary, the co-expression of cubilin and megalin in the VE is consistent with the two proteins functioning jointly in this tissue. However, the differential distribution pattern indicates that the proteins also function independent of one another. Furthermore, the finding of megalin expression in blood island endothelial cells and cubilin expression in embryonic endoderm highlight potential new developmental roles for these proteins.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.