We have examined the role of integrins in the formation of the cell junctions that connect muscles to epidermis (muscle attachments) and muscles to neurons (neuromuscular junctions). To this end we have analyzed muscle attachments and neuromuscular junctions ultrastructurally in single or double mutant Drosophila embryos lacking PS1 integrin (alphaPS1betaPS), PS2 integrin (alphaPS2betaPS), and/or their potential extracellular ligand laminin A. At the muscle attachments PS integrins are essential for the adhesion of hemiadherens junctions (HAJs) to extracellular matrix, but not for their intracellular link to the cytoskeleton. The PS2 integrin is only expressed in the muscles, but it is essential for the adhesion of muscle and epidermal HAJs to electron dense extracellular matrix. It is also required for adhesion of muscle HAJs to a less electron dense form of extracellular matrix, the basement membrane. The PS1 integrin is expressed in epidermal cells and can mediate adhesion of the epidermal HAJs to the basement membrane. The ligands involved in adhesion mediated by both PS integrins seem distinct because adhesion mediated by PS1 appears to require the extracellular matrix component laminin A, while adhesion mediated by PS2 integrin does not. At neuromuscular junctions the formation of functional synapses occurs normally in embryos lacking PS integrins and/or laminin A, but the extent of contact between neuronal and muscle surfaces is altered significantly. We suggest that neuromuscular contact in part requires basement membrane adhesion to the general muscle surface, and this form of adhesion is completely abolished in the absence of laminin A.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.