Mikio Furuse

Kobe University, Kōbe, Hyōgo, Japan

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Publications (101)657.38 Total impact

  • Yasushi Izumi, Mikio Furuse
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    ABSTRACT: Septate junctions (SJs) are specialized intercellular junctions that function as permeability barriers to restrict the free diffusion of solutes through the paracellular routes in invertebrate epithelia. SJs are subdivided into several morphological types that vary among different animal phyla. In several phyla, different types of SJ have been described in different epithelia within an individual. Arthropods have two types of SJs: pleated SJs (pSJs) and smooth SJs (sSJs), found in ectodermally and endodermally derived epithelia, respectively. Several lines of Drosophila research have identified and characterized a large number of pSJ-associated proteins. Two sSJ-specific proteins have been recently reported. Molecular dissection of SJs in Drosophila and animals in other phyla will lead to a better understanding of the functional differences among SJ types and of evolutionary aspects of these permeability barriers.
    Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology 09/2014; · 5.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: ZO-1, ZO-2 and ZO-3 are tight junction-associated scaffold proteins that bind to transmembrane proteins of tight junctions and the underlying cytoskeleton. ZO-1 is involved in the regulation of cytoskeletal organization, but its detailed molecular mechanism is less well understood. Gene knockout is an ideal method to investigate the functions of proteins that might have redundant functions such as ZO proteins, when compared with methods such as RNA interference-mediated suppression of gene expression. In this study we applied transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), a recently developed genome editing method for gene knockout, and established ZO-1 knockout clones in Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells. ZO-1 knockout induced striking changes in myosin organization at cell-cell contacts and disrupted the localization of tight junction proteins; these findings were previously unseen in studies of ZO-1 knockdown by RNA interference. Rescue experiments revealed that trace ZO-1 expression reversed these changes while excessive ZO-1 expression induced an intensive zigzag shape of cell-cell junctions. These results suggest a role for ZO-1 in the regulation of cytoskeleton and shape of cell-cell junctions in MDCK cells and indicate the advantage of knockout analysis in cultured cells.
    PLoS ONE 08/2014; 9(8):e104994. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: When the surface view of each epithelial cell is compared with a polygon, its sides correspond to cell-cell junctions, while its vertices correspond to tricellular contacts, whose roles in epithelial cell morphogenesis have not been well studied. Here, we show that tricellulin, which is localized at tricellular contacts, regulates F-actin organization via Cdc42. Tricellulin knockdown epithelial cells exhibit irregular polygonal shapes with curved cell borders and impaired organization of F-actin fibers around tricellular contacts during cell-cell junction formation. The N-terminal cytoplasmic domain of tricellulin binds to a Cdc42 guanine nucleotide exchange factor, Tuba, and activates Cdc42. A tricellulin mutant that lacks the ability of Tuba binding cannot rescue the curved cell border phenotype of tricellulin knockdown cells. These findings indicate that tricellular contacts play crucial roles in regulating the actomyosin-mediated apical junctional complex tension through the tricellulin-Tuba-Cdc42 system.
    Journal of Cell Science 08/2014; · 5.33 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Occludin is the first identified protein in the tight junction (TJ), but its function has remained for the most part obscure. TJs have been demonstrated to play important roles in the inner ear function, and occludin is expressed in all the epithelial TJs in the inner ear. Thus, we examined the inner ears of occludin-deficient (Occ(-/-)) mice. Although inner ears initially developed normally in Occ(-/-) mice, apoptosis occurs in hair cells in the organ of Corti around day 12 after birth, and deafness develops. Since hair cell degeneration was not observed in cochlear explant cultures of Occ(-/-) mice, environmental changes were considered to be the trigger of cell death. As for the vestibular system, both the morphologies and functions are normal in Occ(-/-) mice. These phenotypes of Occ(-/-) mice are very similar with those of claudin-14 or claudin-9 deficient mice, leading us to speculate on the existence of imbalance induced by TJ abnormalities, such as localized ionic components. Moreover, the occludin deficiency led to dislocalization of tricellulin, a gene responsible for human deafness DFNB49. The deafness in Occ(-/-) mice may be due to this dislocalization of tricellulin.
    Biology open. 07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Tricellular tight junctions (tTJs) are specialized structural variants of tight junctions within tricellular contacts of an epithelial sheet and comprise several transmembrane proteins including lipolysis-stimulated lipoprotein receptor (angulin-1/LSR) and tricellulin. To elucidate the mechanism of its formation, we carried out stepwise screening of kinase inhibitors followed by RNAi screening to identify kinases that regulate intracellular localization of angulin-1/LSR to the tTJs using a fluorescence image-based screen. We found that the activity of JNK1 and JNK2, but not JNK3, was required for the exclusive localization of angulin-1/LSR at the tTJs. Based on a bioinformatics approach, we estimated the potential phosphorylation site of angulin-1/LSR by JNK1 to be serine 288 and experimentally confirmed that JNK1 directly phosphorylates angulin-1/LSR at this site. We found that JNK2 was also involved in the phosphorylation of angulin-1/LSR. Furthermore, GFP-tagged angulin-1/LSR(S288A), in which serine 288 was substituted by alanine, was observed to be dispersed to bicellular junctions, indicating that phosphorylation of Ser288 is crucial for the exclusive localization of angulin-1/LSR and tricellulin at tTJs. Our fluorescence image-based screening for kinases inhibitor or siRNAs combined with the phosphorylation site prediction could become a versatile and useful tool to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the maintenance of tTJs regulated by kinase networks.
    Genes to Cells 05/2014; · 2.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: When the apicolateral border of epithelial cells is compared with a polygon, its sides correspond to the apical junctional complex, where cell adhesion molecules assemble from the plasma membranes of two adjacent cells. On the other hand, its vertices correspond to tricellular contacts, where the corners of three cells meet. Vertebrate tricellular contacts have specialized structures of tight junctions, termed tricellular tight junctions (tTJs). tTJs were identified by electron microscopic observations more than 40 years ago, but have been largely forgotten in epithelial cell biology since then. The identification of tricellulin and angulin family proteins as tTJ-associated membrane proteins has enabled us to study tTJs in terms of not only the paracellular barrier function but also unknown characteristics of epithelial cell corners via molecular biological approaches.
    Tissue barriers. 05/2014; 2(3):e28960.
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    ABSTRACT: The paracellular pathway of an epithelial cellular sheet can be divided into two parts: one between two adjacent cells sealed by tight junctions (TJs) and one at tricellular contacts (TCs), where the corners of three cells meet. At TCs of epithelial cells, there is a specialized mode of TJs, namely tricellular TJs (tTJs), required for full barrier function of the cellular sheet. However, tTJs have not been described in endothelial cells to date. Here, we investigated whether tTJs occur in endothelial cells by analyzing the TC localizations of tTJ markers, tricellulin and angulin family proteins (angulin-1/LSR, angulin-2/ILDR1, and angulin-3/ILDR2), by immunofluorescence staining of frozen sections of various tissues from adult mice. Endothelial TCs in most tissues revealed no detectable staining of tricellulin or angulins. However, tricellulin and angulin-1/LSR were specifically concentrated in TCs of brain and retinal endothelial cells, which form the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and inner blood-retinal barrier (BRB), respectively. Even in the brain, endothelial cells in the choroid plexus and the median eminence, one of the circumventricular organs, did not show concentration of tricellulin or angulins at TCs. These findings indicate the existence of tTJs in endothelial cells in vivo and suggest that tTJs impart important characteristics to the BBB and inner BRB.
    Cell Structure and Function 11/2013; · 2.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tricellulin is a tricellular tight junction-associated membrane protein that controls movement of solutes at these specialized cell intersections. Mutations in the gene encoding tricellulin, TRIC, lead to nonsyndromic deafness. In this issue of the JCI, Nayak et al. created a gene-targeted knockin mouse in order to mimic the pathology of a human TRIC mutation. Deafness appears to be caused either by an increase in the K+ ion concentration around the basolateral surfaces of the outer hair cells or, alternatively, by an increase in small molecules such as ATP around the hair bundle, leading to cellular dysfunction and degeneration. Furthermore, the mice have features suggestive of syndromic hearing loss, which may have implications for care and treatment of patients harboring TRIC mutations.
    The Journal of clinical investigation 08/2013; · 15.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tight junctions (TJs) form a selective barrier for ions, water, and macromolecules in simple epithelia. In keratinocytes and epidermis, TJs were shown to be involved in individual barrier functions. The absence of the TJ protein claudin-1 (Cldn1) in mice results in a skin-barrier defect characterized by lethal water loss. However, detailed molecular analyses of the various TJ barriers in keratinocytes and the contribution of distinct TJ proteins are missing. Herein, we discriminate TJ-dependent paracellular resistance from transcellular resistance in cultured keratinocytes using the two-path impedance spectroscopy. We demonstrate that keratinocyte TJs form a barrier for Na(+), Cl(-), and Ca(2+), and contribute to barrier function for water and larger molecules of different size. In addition, knockdown of Cldn1, Cldn4, occludin, and zonula occludens-1 increased paracellular permeabilities for ions and larger molecules, demonstrating that all of these TJ proteins contribute to barrier formation. Remarkably, Cldn1 and Cldn4 are not critical for TJ barrier function for water in submerged keratinocyte cultures. However, Cldn1 influences stratum corneum (SC) proteins important for SC water barrier function, and is crucial for TJ barrier formation for allergen-sized macromolecules.Journal of Investigative Dermatology advance online publication, 14 February 2013; doi:10.1038/jid.2012.507.
    Journal of Investigative Dermatology 02/2013; · 6.19 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Tight junctions (TJs) contribute to the epithelial barrier function by preventing leakage of solutes through the intercellular space. In the skin, TJs occur in the stratum granulosum (SG), where claudin-1 and claudin-4 are expressed as adhesion molecules of TJs. Claudin-1-deficient (Cldn1(-/-)) mice die within one day of birth accompanied by excessive transepidermal water loss, indicating a critical role of TJs in the epidermal barrier function. However, it has been debated whether the impaired TJ function in the SG also affects the stratum corneum (SC) barrier function or whether it results in skin barrier defects despite a normal SC barrier. OBJECTIVE: To clarify whether the impaired TJ function affects the SC barrier function in Cldn1(-/-) mice. METHODS: The morphology, barrier function and biochemical characteristic of the SC were compared between Cldn1(-/-) and Cldn1(+/+) mice. RESULTS: Scanning electron microscopy demonstrated abnormally wrinkled and rough corneocytes in Cldn1(-/-) mice. Notably, the X-gal tracer easily permeated into the Cldn1(-/-) SC, and water evaporation through isolated Cldn1(-/-) SC sheets was significantly higher than that through Cldn1(+/+) SC sheets. Furthermore, the ceramide composition of the SC lipids and filaggrin processing were altered in Cldn1(-/-) mice. CONCLUSION: Cldn1(-/-) mice exhibited the abnormal SC formation and SC barrier defects. These findings demonstrate for the first time that TJs in the SG play crucial roles in the complete SC formation and SC barrier function.
    Journal of dermatological science 01/2013; · 3.71 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Claudins have been demonstrated to be associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but the specific role of claudin-2 in colorectal inflammation remains undefined. AIMS: We aimed to determine the role of claudin-2 in TNFα-induced colorectal inflammation. METHODS: We used claudin-2 (-/-) mice to assess the role of claudin-2 in colon. The mice were intraperitoneally injected with 3 μg of recombinant murine TNFα, and the NF-κB signaling and mRNA expression levels of proinflammatory cytokines and myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) were evaluated. Moreover, in claudin-2 (-/-) mice, colitis was induced by the administration of dextran sodium sulfate (DSS). The involvement of claudin-2 in colorectal inflammation was also investigated using the Caco-2 human colon adenocarcinoma cell line, and the expression of claudin-2 was downregulated using claudin-2 siRNA. RESULTS: TNFα-induced colorectal inflammation via NF-κB signaling activation was enhanced in claudin-2 (-/-) mice compared with that in claudin-2 (+/+) mice. MLCK expression level in the colon tissue of claudin-2 (-/-) mice treated with TNFα was enhanced in comparison to that of the claudin-2 (+/+) mice. DSS-induced colitis was more severe in the claudin-2 (-/-) mice than in the claudin-2 (+/-) mice. In in vitro experiments, the decreased expression of claudin-2 enhanced the expressions of IL-6, IL-1β and MLCK. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings concerning the role of claudin-2 in epithelial inflammatory responses enrich our collective understanding of mucosal homeostasis and intestinal diseases such as IBD. Furthermore, the results of this study indicate that claudin-2 and MLCK are potential therapeutic targets for treatments against intestinal disease.
    Digestive Diseases and Sciences 01/2013; · 2.26 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tricellular tight junctions (tTJs) seal the extracellular space at tricellular contacts (TCs), where the corners of three epithelial cells meet. To date, the transmembrane proteins tricellulin and lipolysis-stimulated lipoprotein receptor (LSR) are known to be molecular components of tTJs. LSR recruits tricellulin to tTJs, and both proteins are required for the full barrier function of epithelial cellular sheets. Here, we show that two LSR-related proteins, immunoglobulin-like domain-containing receptor (ILDR)1 and ILDR2, are also localized at TCs and recruit tricellulin. The expressions of LSR, ILDR1 and ILDR2 were complementary in various epithelial cell types, although LSR and ILDR1 were coexpressed in some epithelia. ILDR1 was required for the establishment of a strong barrier of the epithelium, similar to LSR, when introduced into cultured epithelial cells, while ILDR2 provided a much weaker barrier. We further analyzed human ILDR1, whose mutations cause a familial deafness, DFNB42, and found that most DFNB42-associated ILDR1 mutant proteins were defective in recruitment of tricellulin. We also found that tricellulin mutant proteins associated with another familial deafness, DFNB49, were not recruited to TCs by ILDR1. These findings show the heterogeneity of the molecular organization of tTJs in terms of the content of LSR, ILDR1 or ILDR2, and suggest that ILDR1-mediated recruitment of tricellulin to TCs is required for hearing. Given their common localization at epithelial cell corners and recruitment of tricellulin, we propose to designate LSR, ILDR1 and ILDR2 as angulin family proteins.
    Journal of Cell Science 12/2012; · 5.33 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Septate junctions (SJs) are specialized intercellular junctions that restrict the free diffusion of solutes through the paracellular route in invertebrate epithelia. In arthropods, two morphologically different types of SJs have been reported: pleated SJs and smooth SJs (sSJs), which are found in ectodermally and endodermally derived epithelia, respectively. However, the molecular and functional differences between these SJ types have not been elucidated. Here we report that a novel sSJ-specific component, a single-pass transmembrane protein, termed 'Mesh' is highly concentrated in Drosophila sSJs. Compromised mesh expression causes defects in the organization of sSJs, in the localizations of other sSJ proteins, and in the barrier function of the midgut. Ectopic expression of Mesh in cultured cells induces cell-cell adhesion. Mesh forms a complex with Ssk, another sSJ-specific protein, and these proteins are mutually interdependent for their localization. Thus, a novel protein complex comprising Mesh and Ssk plays a significant role in sSJ formation and in intestinal barrier function in Drosophila.
    Journal of Cell Science 08/2012; · 5.33 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tricellular tight junctions (tTJs) are specialized structural variants of tight junctions that restrict the free diffusion of solutes at the extracellular space of tricellular contacts. Their presence at cell corners, situated in the angles between three adjacent epithelial cells, was identified early by electron microscopy, but despite their potential importance, tTJs have been generally ignored in epithelial cell biology. Tricellulin was the first molecular component of tTJs shown to be involved in their formation and in epithelial barrier function. However, the precise molecular organization and function of tTJs are still largely unknown. Recently, we identified the lipolysis-stimulated lipoprotein receptor (LSR) as a tTJ-associated membrane protein. LSR recruits tricellulin to tTJs, suggesting that the LSR-tricellulin system plays a key role in tTJ formation. In this paper, we summarize the identification and characterization of LSR as a molecular component of tTJs.
    Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 06/2012; 1257:54-8. · 4.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Septate junctions (SJs) are the membrane specializations observed between epithelial cells in invertebrates. SJs play a crucial role in epithelial barrier function by restricting the free diffusion of solutes through the intercellular space. In arthropod species, two morphologically different types of SJs have been described: pleated septate junctions (pSJs) and smooth septate junctions (sSJs), which are specific to ectodermal and endodermal epithelia, respectively. In contrast to the recent identification of pSJ-related proteins, the molecular constituents of sSJs are mostly unknown. Here, we report the discovery of a new sSJ-specific membrane protein, designated 'Snakeskin' (Ssk). Ssk is highly concentrated in sSJs in the Drosophila midgut and Malpighian tubules. Lack of Ssk expression is embryonically lethal in Drosophila and results in defective sSJ formation accompanied by abnormal morphology of midgut epithelial cells. We also show that the barrier function of the midgut to a fluorescent tracer is impaired in ssk-knockdown larvae. These results suggest that Ssk is required for the intestinal barrier function in Drosophila.
    Journal of Cell Science 02/2012; 125(Pt 8):1980-90. · 5.33 Impact Factor
  • Shigeaki Muto, Mikio Furuse, Eiji Kusano
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    ABSTRACT: Tight junctions (TJs) are the most apical component of junctional complexes and regulate the movement of electrolytes and solutes by the paracellular pathway across epithelia. The defining ultrastructural features of TJs are strands of transmembrane protein particles that adhere to similar strands on adjacent cells. These strands are mainly composed of linearly polymerized integral membrane proteins called claudins. Claudins comprise a multigene family consisting of more than 20 members in mammals. Recent work has shown that claudins form barriers, determined by the paracellular electrical resistance and charge selectivity, and pores in the TJ strands. The paracellular pathways in renal tubular epithelia such as the proximal tubule, which reabsorbs the largest fraction of filtered NaCl and water, are important routes for the transport of electrolytes and water. Their transport characteristics vary among different nephron segments. Multiple claudins are expressed at TJs of individual nephron segments in a nephron segment-specific manner. Among them, claudin-2 is highly expressed at TJs of proximal tubules, which are leaky epithelia. Overexpression and knockdown of claudin-2 in epithelial cell lines, and knockout of the claudin-2 gene in mice, have demonstrated that claudin-2 forms high-conductance cation-selective pores in the proximal tubule. Here, we review the renal physiology of paracellular transport and the physiological roles of claudins in kidney function, especially claudin-2 and proximal tubule paracellular NaCl transport.
    Clinical and Experimental Nephrology 02/2012; 16(1):61-7. · 1.71 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cell-cell junctions play crucial roles in the organization and function of epithelial and endothelial cellular sheets. Here, we have identified the protein product for KIAA1462 gene, whose single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have recently reported to be associated with coronary artery disease, as a novel component of cell-cell junctions. We propose the name of KIAA1462 protein junctional protein associated with coronary artery disease (JCAD). JCAD is a ∼145 kDa protein without any known domains but contains a proline-rich region. Immunolocalization studies revealed that JCAD is specifically localized at cell-cell junctions in endothelial cells but not in epithelial cells. The accumulation of JCAD at cell-cell junctions in cultured endothelial cells was impaired by RNAi-mediated suppression of VE-cadherin expression. In cell adhesion-deficient mouse L fibroblasts, JCAD was recruited to cell-cell contacts when cadherin-mediated cell-cell adhesion was induced. These results indicate that JCAD is a component of VE-cadherin-based cell-cell junctions in endothelial cells. This study also suggests the implication of endothelial cell-cell adhesion in coronary artery disease.
    Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 08/2011; 413(2):224-9. · 2.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) is a scaffolding molecule critical to the formation of intercellular adhesion structures, such as tight junctions (TJs) and adherens junctions (AJs). ZO-1 contains three PDZ domains followed by a GUK domain and a ZU5 domain. The first PDZ of ZO-1 (ZO-1(PDZ1)) serves as a protein-protein interaction module and interacts with the C-termini of almost all claudins to initiate the formation of a belt-like structure on the lateral membranes, thereby promoting TJ formation. It has been recently reported that approximately 15% of all PDZ domains bind phosphoinositides, and ZO-1(PDZ1) is the one of these. Here we report the (15)N, (13)C, and (1)H chemical shift assignments of the first PDZ domain of mouse ZO-1. The resonance assignments obtained in this work may contribute in clarifying the interplay between the two binary interactions, ZO-1(PDZ1)-claudins and ZO-1(PDZ1)-phospholipids, and suggesting a novel regulation mechanism underlying the formation and maintenance of cell-cell adhesion machinery downstream of the phospholipid signaling pathways.
    Biomolecular NMR Assignments 03/2011; 5(2):207-10. · 0.64 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mammalian ortholog of Scribble tumor suppressor has been reported to regulate cadherin-mediated epithelial cell adhesion by stabilizing the coupling of E-cadherin with catenins, but the molecular mechanism involved remains unknown. In this study, we investigated the relationship between the localization of mouse Scribble at cadherin-based adherens junctions (AJs) and its phosphorylation state. Immunofluorescence staining confirmed that Scribble was localized at AJs as well as at the basolateral plasma membrane in epithelial cells. We found that Scribble was detected as two bands by Western blotting analysis and that the band shift to the higher molecular weight was dependent on its phosphorylation at Ser 1601. Triton X-100 treatment extracted Scribble localized on the basolateral membrane but not Scribble localized at AJs in cultured epithelial cells, and the Triton X-100-resistant Scribble was the Ser 1601-unphosphorylated form. Conversely, an in-house-generated antibody that predominantly recognized Ser 1601-phosphorylated Scribble only detected Scribble protein on the lateral plasma membrane. Furthermore, Ser 1601-unphosphorylated Scribble was selectively coprecipitated with E-cadherin-catenin complexes in E-cadherin-expressing mouse L fibroblasts. Taken together, these results suggest that the phosphorylation state of Scribble regulates its complex formation with the E-cadherin-catenin system and may control cadherin-mediated cell-cell adhesion.
    Experimental Cell Research 02/2011; 317(4):413-22. · 3.37 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Epithelial cell contacts consist of not only bicellular contacts but also tricellular contacts, where the corners of three cells meet. At tricellular contacts, tight junctions (TJs) generate specialized structures termed tricellular TJs (tTJs) to seal the intercellular space. Tricellulin is the only known molecular component of tTJs and is involved in the formation of tTJs, as well as in the normal epithelial barrier function. However, the detailed molecular mechanism of how tTJs are formed and maintained remains elusive. Using a localization-based expression cloning method, we identified a novel tTJ-associated protein known as lipolysis-stimulated lipoprotein receptor (LSR). Upon LSR knockdown in epithelial cells, tTJ formation was affected and the epithelial barrier function was diminished. Tricellulin accumulation at the tricellular contacts was also diminished in these cells. By contrast, LSR still accumulated at the tricellular contacts upon tricellulin knockdown. Analyses of deletion mutants revealed that the cytoplasmic domain of LSR was responsible for the recruitment of tricellulin. On the basis of these observations, we propose that LSR defines tricellular contacts in epithelial cellular sheets by acting as a landmark to recruit tricellulin for tTJ formation.
    Journal of Cell Science 02/2011; 124(Pt 4):548-55. · 5.33 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

16k Citations
657.38 Total Impact Points


  • 2009–2014
    • Kobe University
      • • Division of Cell Biology
      • • Division of Structural Biology
      Kōbe, Hyōgo, Japan
  • 1994–2014
    • The Graduate University for Advanced Studies
      • Department of Information Physiology
      Миура, Kanagawa, Japan
  • 2011
    • Tenri Yorozu Hospital
      Тэнри, Nara, Japan
  • 1997–2010
    • Kyoto University
      • • Department of Cell Biology
      • • Department of Immunology and Cell Biology
      Kioto, Kyōto, Japan
  • 2003
    • KAN Research Institute
      Kōbe, Hyōgo, Japan
  • 1999
    • The Jikei University School of Medicine
      Edo, Tōkyō, Japan