Cells are crisscrossed by microtubules, protein cables that provide infrastructure, which facilitate cellular migration and assist in transport of molecular cargo, among other functions.
Most microtubules radiate out from structures known as centrosomes, but many cells also contain non-centrosomal microtubules of ambiguous function that are anchored to yet-unknown cellular targets.
For example, in epithelia—cell sheets that compose tissues including the skin and digestive tract—evidence has suggested that microtubules may interact with adherens junctions (AJs), protein complexes that connect epithelial cells together. “However, it was not clearly understood whether and how microtubules were involved in AJ formation,” says Masatoshi Takeichi, of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe.
Fortunately, a new study by Takeichi’s team, including lead author Wenxiang Meng, offers some illumination. The researchers were looking for interacting partners for p120-catenin, a protein that participates in formation of the zonula adherens (ZA)—bands of AJs that encircle epithelial cells, reinforcing their shape and linking them tightly into two-dimensional sheets.
Their search led to the identification of PLEKHA7 and Nezha, two novel proteins that appear to provide the ‘missing link’ between the ZA and the microtubule network1. Nezha binds to PLEKHA7, which interacts directly with p120, and both Nezha and PLEKHA7 localize to the ZA, where they appear to play an important role in maintaining its integrity.
Meng and Takeichi subsequently found that Nezha interacts directly with non-centrosomal microtubules. Every microtubule has a defined ‘minus’ and ‘plus’ end, with fiber growth occurring exclusively taking place at the latter. Nezha binds specifically to microtubule minus ends, enabling further extension at the plus end, and this association seems to play an essential part in enabling PLEKHA7-Nezha stabilization of the ZA.
Although the details of microtubule involvement in the ZA are still unclear, the researchers uncovered a promising lead when they identified a motor protein, KIFC3, which travels along microtubules towards PLEKHA7-Nezha-associated junctions. “Minus-end directed motors like KIFC3 may utilize these microtubules as a ‘rail’ to transport cargo necessary to maintain the ZA,” says Takeichi.
These findings raise many new questions, but also represent major progress in cell biology, confirming the involvement of microtubules in maintenance of cell-cell junctions and revealing factors that help mediate this function. “To my knowledge, Nezha is the first non-centrosomal protein shown to tether the microtubule minus-ends,” says Takeichi. “These findings are thus a breakthrough for our deeper understanding of the dynamics and biological roles of non-centrosomal microtubules.”
1. Meng, W., Mushika, Y., Ichii, T. & Takeichi, M. Anchorage of microtubule minus ends to adherens junctions regulates epithelial cell-cell contacts. Cell 135, 948–959 (2008).
The corresponding author for this highlight is based at the RIKEN Laboratory for Cell Adhesion and Tissue Patterning
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy