BACKGROUND: Genetic analysis of the Drosophila septate junctions has greatly contributed to our understanding of the mechanisms controlling the assembly of these adhesion structures, which bear strong similarities with the vertebrate tight junctions and the paranodal septate junctions. These adhesion complexes share conserved molecular components and have a common function: the formation of paracellular barriers restraining the diffusion of solutes through epithelial and glial envelopes. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In this work we characterise the function of the Drosophila cold gene, that codes for a protein belonging to the Ly6 superfamily of extracellular ligands. Analysis of cold mutants shows that this gene is specifically required for the organisation of the septate junctions in epithelial tissues and in the nervous system, where its contribution is essential for the maintenance of the blood-brain barrier. We show that cold acts in a cell autonomous way, and we present evidence indicating that this protein could act as a septate junction component. CONCLUSION/SIGNIFICANCE: We discuss the specific roles of cold and three other Drosophila members of the Ly6 superfamily that have been shown to participate in a non-redundant way in the process of septate junction assembly. We propose that vertebrate Ly6 proteins could fulfill analogous roles in tight junctions and/or paranodal septate junctions.
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