Background: Crumbs (Crb), a cell polarity gene, has been shown to provide a positional cue for the extension of the apical membrane domain, adherens junction (AJ), and rhabdomere along the growing proximal-distal axis during Drosophila photoreceptor morphogenesis. In developing Drosophila photoreceptors, a stabilized microtubule structure was discovered and its presence was linked to polarity protein localization. It was therefore hypothesized that the microtubules may provide trafficking routes for the polarity proteins during photoreceptor morphogenesis. This study has examined whether Kinesin heavy chain (Khc), a subunit of the microtubule-based motor Kinesin-1, is essential in polarity protein localization in developing photoreceptors.
Methodology/principal findings: Because a genetic interaction was found between crb and khc, Crb localization was examined in the developing photoreceptors of khc mutants. khc was dispensable during early eye differentiation and development. However, khc mutant photoreceptors showed a range of abnormalities in the apical membrane domain depending on the position along the proximal-distal axis in pupal photoreceptors. The khc mutant showed a progressive mislocalization in the apical domain along the distal-proximal axis during rhabdomere elongation. The khc mutation also led to a similar progressive defect in the stabilized microtubule structures, strongly suggesting that Khc is essential for microtubule structure and Crb localization during distal to proximal rhabdomere elongation in pupal morphogenesis. This role of Khc in apical domain control was further supported by khc's gain-of-function phenotype. Khc overexpression in photoreceptors caused disruption of the apical membrane domain and the stabilized microtubules in the developing photoreceptors.
Conclusions/significance: In summary, we examined the role of khc in the regulation of the apical Crb domain in developing photoreceptors. Since the rhabdomeres in developing pupal eyes grow along the distal-proximal axis, these phenotypes suggest that Khc is essential for the microtubule structures and apical membrane domains during the distal-proximal elongation of photoreceptors, but is dispensable for early eye development.