The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) forms a monolayer sheet separating the retina and choroid in vertebrate eyes. The polarized nature of RPE is maintained by distributing membrane proteins differentially along apico-basal axis. We found the distributions of these proteins differ in embryonic, post-natal, and mature mouse RPE, suggesting developmental regulation of protein trafficking. Thus, we deleted tumor susceptibility gene 101 (Tsg101), a key component of endosomal sorting complexes required for transport (ESCRT), in embryonic and mature RPE to determine whether ESCRT-mediated endocytic protein trafficking correlated with the establishment and maintenance of RPE polarity. Loss of Tsg101 severely disturbed the polarity of RPE, which forms irregular aggregates exhibiting non-polarized distribution of cell adhesion proteins and activation of epidermal growth factor receptor signaling. These findings suggest that ESCRT-mediated protein trafficking is essential for the development and maintenance of RPE cell polarity.
Keywords: cell polarity; endosomal sorting complexes required for transport (ESCRT); retinal pigment epithelium (RPE); tumor susceptibility gene 101 (Tsg101).