Composition and function of the Crumbs protein complex in the mammalian retina

Exp Eye Res. 2008 May;86(5):713-26. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2008.02.005. Epub 2008 Feb 26.


The Crumbs proteins (CRBs) are transmembrane proteins, homologous to Drosophila Crumbs, with a key role in defining the apical membrane domain in photoreceptors as well as in embryonic epithelia. Crumbs proteins are conserved between species and their intracellular domains are involved in organizing a conserved macromolecular protein scaffold with important roles in cell polarity as well as morphogenesis and maintenance of the retina. Mutations in the gene encoding human CRB1, the first one identified out of the three human orthologs, have been associated with a number of retinal dystrophies including Leber amaurosis and retinitis pigmentosa type 12. Although no other mammalian Crumbs complex members as of yet have been associated with retinal degeneration, disruption of different zebrafish and fruitfly orthologs can lead to various retinal defects. The core Crumbs complex localizes apical to the outer limiting membrane, where photoreceptors and Müller glia contact each other. Correct functioning of Crumbs ensures adhesion between these cells by an unknown mechanism. This review summarizes the current view on the composition and function of the Crumbs prsotein complex in the mammalian retina. Recently, a number of new members of the Crumbs protein complex have been identified. These include most members of the membrane palmitoylated protein family (MPP), involved in assembly of macromolecular protein complexes. Some components of the complex are found to exert a function in the photoreceptor synapses and/or at the region of the connecting cilium. Studies using polarized cell cultures or model organisms, like Drosophila and zebrafish, suggest important links of the Crumbs protein complex to several biological processes in the mammalian eye, including retinal patterning, ciliogenesis and vesicular transport.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Eye Proteins / genetics
  • Eye Proteins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Nucleoside-Phosphate Kinase / physiology
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Synapses / physiology


  • CRB1 protein, human
  • Eye Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nucleoside-Phosphate Kinase
  • MPP5 protein, human