Macroglobulin complement-related encodes a protein required for septate junction organization and paracellular barrier function in Drosophila.

Sonia Hall, Courtney Bone, Kenzi Oshima, Liang Zhang, Molly McGraw, Bethany Lucas, Richard G. Fehon, Robert E. Ward IV

Polarized epithelia play crucial roles as barriers to the outside environment and enable the formation of specialized compartments for organs to carry out essential functions. Barrier functions are mediated by cellular junctions that line the lateral plasma membrane between cells, principally tight junctions in vertebrates and septate junctions (SJs) in invertebrates. Over the last two decades, more than 20 genes have been identified that function in SJ biogenesis in Drosophila, including those that encode core structural components of the junction such as Neurexin IV, Coracle and several claudins, as well as proteins that facilitate the trafficking of SJ proteins during their assembly. Here we demonstrate that Macroglobulin complement-related (Mcr), a gene previously implicated in innate immunity, plays an essential role during embryonic development in SJ organization and function. We show that Mcr colocalizes with other SJ proteins in mature ectodermally derived epithelial cells, that it shows interdependence with other SJ proteins for SJ localization, and that Mcr mutant epithelia fail to form an effective paracellular barrier. Tissue-specific RNA interference further demonstrates that Mcr is required cell-autonomously for SJ organization. Finally, we show a unique interdependence between Mcr and Nrg for SJ localization that provides new insights into the organization of the SJ. Together, these studies demonstrate that Mcr is a core component of epithelial SJs and also highlight an interesting relationship between innate immunity and epithelial barrier functions.


Septate Junction Proteins Play Essential Roles in Morphogenesis Throughout Embryonic Development in Drosophila

Sonia Hall and Robert E. Ward

The septate junction (SJ) is the occluding junction found in the ectodermal epithelia of invertebrate organisms, and is essential to maintain chemically distinct compartments in epithelial organs, to provide the blood–brain barrier in the nervous system, and to provide an important line of defense against invading pathogens. More than 20 genes have been identified to function in the establishment or maintenance of SJs in Drosophila melanogaster. Numerous studies have demonstrated the cell biological function of these proteins in establishing the occluding junction, whereas very few studies have examined further developmental roles for them. Here we examined embryos with mutations in nine different core SJ genes and found that all nine result in defects in embryonic development as early as germ band retraction, with the most penetrant defect observed in head involution. SJ genes are also required for cell shape changes and cell rearrangements that drive the elongation of the salivary gland during midembryogenesis. Interestingly, these developmental events occur at a time prior to the formation of the occluding junction, when SJ proteins localize along the lateral membrane and have not yet coalesced into the region of the SJ. Together, these observations reveal an under appreciated role for a large group of SJ genes in essential developmental events during embryogenesis, and suggest that the function of these proteins in facilitating cell shape changes and rearrangements is independent of their role in the occluding junction.