The Drosophila genes fat (ft) and dachsous (ds) encode large atypical cadherins that collaborate to coordinately polarize cells in the plane of the epithelium (planar cell polarity) and to affect growth via the Warts/Hippo pathway. Ft and Ds form heterodimeric bridges that convey polarity information from cell to cell. four-jointed (fj) is a modulator of Ft/Ds activity that acts in a graded fashion in the abdomen, eye, and wing. Genetic evidence indicates that Fj acts via Ds and/or Ft, and here we demonstrate that Fj can act independently on Ds and on Ft. It has been reported that Fj has kinase activity and can phosphorylate a subset of cadherin domains of both Ft and Ds in vitro. We have used both cell and in vitro assays to measure binding between Ft and Ds. We find that phosphorylation of Ds reduces its affinity for Ft in both of these assays. By expressing forms of Ds that lack the defined phosphorylation sites or have phosphomimetic amino acids at these positions, we demonstrate that effects of Fj on wing size and planar polarity can be explained by Fj phosphorylating these sites.
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