Nectins and nectin-like molecules (Necls) are structurally related transmembrane proteins primarily involved in cell adhesion. Nectins and afadin, the adaptor or anchoring protein, stabilize the epithelium and endothelium and establish apical-basal polarity of epithelial cells, independently or in cooperation with other cell adhesion molecules. Necls facilitate cell-cell communication implicated in cell movement and proliferation, immune responses, and cancer cell phenotypes. Necls interact with nectins and specific ligands at cell-cell contacts, whereas Necls associate with integrin alpha v beta 3 and growth factor receptors on the same cell surface. Besides their roles in cell adhesion, nectins regulate the activities of Rho family small G proteins which play critical roles in maintaining the apical junctions of epithelial cells through reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton. Since mice lacking the Rho GDP-dissociation inhibitor (GDI)alpha show massive proteinuria and degeneration of renal epithelial cells, nectins and other cell adhesion molecules may play roles in the structural and functional aspects of renal diseases. Here we summarize our knowledge of nectins and Necls and discuss cell adhesion biology in the kidney.
(c) 2007 S. Karger AG, Basel.