The apicobasal polarization of epithelia is critical for many aspects of kidney function. Over the last decade there have been major advances in our understanding of the mechanisms that underlie this polarity. Critical to this understanding has been the identification of protein complexes on the apical and basolateral sides of epithelial cells that act in a mutually antagonistic manner to define these domains. Concomitant with the creation of apical and basolateral domains is the formation of highly specialized cell-cell junctions including adherens junctions and tight junctions. Recent research points to variability in the polarity and junctional complexes amongst different species and between different cell types of the kidney. Defects in apicobasal polarity are prominent in several disorders including acute renal failure and polycystic kidney disease.
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