The size of epithelial tubes is critical for the function of organs such as the lung, kidney and vascular system. However, the molecular mechanisms regulating tube size are largely unknown. Recent work in the Drosophila tracheal system reveals that septate junctions play a previously unsuspected role in tube-size control. Surprisingly, this tube-size function is distinct from the established diffusion barrier function of septate junctions, and involves regulation of cell shape rather than cell number. Possible tube-size functions of septate junctions include patterning of the apical extracellular matrix and regulation of conserved cell polarity genes such as Scribble and Discs Large.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Ltd.