The vertebrate L1 family of cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) and their fly homolog, Neuroglian, are members of the immunoglobulin (Ig) superfamily of CAMs. In general, Ig CAMs have been found to play critical roles in mediating axon guidance. One Ig CAM, NCAM, has also been implicated in maintaining epithelial integrity and suppressing metastatic dissemination of tumor cells. Other Ig CAMs, such as Nrg, are also expressed in epithelia. We thus tested the hypothesis that, like NCAM, Nrg might also be required for maintaining epithelial integrity and for inhibiting tumor invasion. We used the Drosophila follicular epithelium to determine the function of Nrg in vivo in maintaining epithelial structure, and in regulating the motility of migrating border cells and invasive tumorous follicle cells. Nrg(167) is expressed on the lateral membrane of follicle cells. Loss of Nrg(167) causes border cells to delay delamination and causes other follicle cells to delaminate inappropriately. The delaminated cells have aberrant epithelial polarity manifested as severe mislocalization of apical and basal membrane proteins, and uniform localization of lateral membrane proteins. Furthermore, loss of Nrg(167) dramatically enhances the invasive phenotype associated with loss of Discs Large, a neoplastic tumor suppressor. These results indicate that Nrg(167) stabilizes epithelial polarity by regulating junctional adhesion and function in normal and tumorous epithelia. Our data also suggest that Ig superfamily members have significant functional redundancy in maintaining epithelial polarity, with individual members playing subtle, unique roles during epithelial morphogenesis.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.