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Tight and adherens junctions are specialized sites of cell-cell interaction in epithelia and endothelia, and are involved in barrier, adhesion, and signaling functions. These functions are orchestrated by a highly organized meshwork of macromolecules in the membrane and cytoplasmic compartments. In this review, we discuss the structural organization and functions of the major cytoplasmic scaffolding and adaptor proteins of vertebrate apical junctions (ZO proteins, afadin, PLEKHA7, cingulin, paracingulin, polarity complex proteins, and a few others), focusing on their interactions with cytoskeletal and signaling proteins. Furthermore, we discuss recent results highlighting how mechanical tension, protein-protein interactions and post-translational modifications regulate the conformation and function of scaffolding proteins, and how spontaneous phase separation into biomolecular condensates contributes to apical junction assembly. Using a sequence-based algorithm, a large fraction of cytoplasmic proteins of apical junctions are predicted to be phase separating proteins (PSPs), suggesting that formation of biomolecular condensates is a general mechanism to organize cell-cell contacts by clustering proteins. Copyright © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Florian Rouaud, Sophie Sluysmans, Arielle Flinois, Jimit Shah, Ekaterina Vasileva, Sandra Citi. Scaffolding proteins of vertebrate apical junctions: structure, functions and biophysics. Biochimica et biophysica acta. Biomembranes. 2020 Oct 01;1862(10):183399

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PMID: 32553946

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