Morphogenetic movements of epithelia during development underlie the normal elaboration of the final body plan. The tissue integrity critical for these movements is conferred by anchorage of the cytoskeleton by adherens junctions, initially spot and later belt-like, zonular structures, which encircle the apical side of the cell. Loss-of-function mutations in the Drosophila genes crumbs and stardust lead to the loss of cell polarity in most ectodermally derived epithelia, followed in some, such as the epidermis, by extensive apoptosis. Here we show that both mutants fail to establish proper zonulae adherentes in the epidermis. Our results suggest that the two genes are involved in different aspects of this process. Further, they are compatible with the hypothesis that crumbs delimits the apical border, where the zonula adherens usually forms and where Crumbs protein is normally most abundant. In contrast, stardust seems to be required at an earlier stage for the assembly of the spot adherence junctions. In both mutants, the defect observed at the ultrastructural level are preceded by a misdistribution of Armadillo and DE-cadherin, the homologues of beta-catenin and E-cadherin, respectively, which are two constituents of the vertebrate adherens junctions. Strikingly, expansion of the apical membrane domain in epidermal cells by overexpression of crumbs also abolishes the formation of adherens junctions and results in the disruption of tissue integrity, but without loss of membrane polarity. This result supports the view that membrane polarity is independent of the formation of adherens junctions in epidermal cells.
The Drosophila gene Serrate encodes a transmembrane protein with 14 EGF-like repeats in its extracellular domain. Here we show that loss-of-function mutations in this gene lead to larval lethality. Homozygous mutant larvae fail to differentiate the anterior spiracles, exhibit poorly developed mouth-hooks and show a severe reduction in the size of the wing and haltere primordia, which is not due to cell death. The few homozygous mutant escapers that pupariate develop into pharate adults that almost completely lack wings and halteres. Clonal analysis in the adult epidermis demonstrates a requirement for Serrate during wing and haltere development. Targeted ectopic expression of Serrate in the imaginal discs using the yeast transcriptional activator Gal4 results in regionally restricted induction of cell proliferation, e.g. the ventral tissues in the case of the wings and halteres. The results suggest that the wild-type function of Serrate is required for the control of position-specific cell proliferation during development of meso- and metathoracic dorsal discs, which in turn exerts a direct effect on morphogenesis.
We describe the molecular characterization of the Drosophila gene Serrate (Ser), which encodes an integral membrane protein. The extracellular domain contains two cysteine-rich regions, one of which is organized in a tandem array of 14 EGF-like repeats. Antibodies directed against part of the extracellular region confirm the localization of the protein in the membrane. In the wing imaginal discs, the protein is detected in those regions that are affected in the wings of two dominant mutations, SerD and SerBd. Both mutations as well as three out of eight newly induced revertants of SerD could be mapped molecularly to the transcribed region, confirming the identity between the gene Ser and the transcription unit characterized. During embryonic development, RNA and protein exhibit a complex expression pattern, which is, however, not correlated with an appropriate embryonic phenotype. Phenotypic interactions of Ser alleles with the neurogenic genes Notch and Delta coupled with the structural similarity of the proteins encoded by these three genes suggest close interactions at the protein level.