Background: Tissue morphogenesis and organogenesis require that cells retain stable cell-cell adhesion while changing shape and moving. One mechanism to accommodate this plasticity in cell adhesion involves regulated trafficking of junctional proteins.
Methodology/principal findings: Here we explored trafficking of junctional proteins in two well-characterized model epithelia, the Drosophila embryonic ectoderm and amnioserosa. We find that DE-cadherin, the transmembrane protein of adherens junctions, is actively trafficked through putative vesicles, and appears to travel through both Rab5-positive and Rab11-positive structures. We manipulated the functions of Rab11 and Rab5 to examine the effects on junctional stability and morphogenesis. Reducing Rab11 function, either using a dominant negative construct or loss of function alleles, disrupts integrity of the ectoderm and leads to loss of adherens junctions. Strikingly, the apical junctional regulator Crumbs is lost before AJs are destabilized, while the basolateral protein Dlg remains cortical. Altering Rab5 function had less dramatic effects, not disrupting adherens junction integrity but affecting dorsal closure.
Conclusions/significance: We contrast our results with what others saw when disrupting other trafficking regulators, and when disrupting Rab function in other tissues; together these data suggest distinct mechanisms regulate junctional stability and plasticity in different tissues.