Recent studies have revealed an important role for tight junction protein complexes in epithelial cell polarity. One of these complexes contains the apical transmembrane protein, Crumbs, and two PSD95/discs large/zonula occludens domain proteins, protein associated with Lin seven 1 (PALS1)/Stardust and PALS1-associated tight junction protein (PATJ). Although Crumbs and PALS1/Stardust are known to be important for cell polarization, recent studies have suggested that Drosophila PATJ is not essential and its function is unclear. Here, we find that PATJ is targeted to the apical region and tight junctions once cell polarization is initiated. We show using RNAi techniques that reduction in PATJ expression leads to delayed tight junction formation as well as defects in cell polarization. These effects are reversed by reintroduction of PATJ into these RNAi cells. This study provides new functional information on PATJ as a polarity protein and increases our understanding of the Crumbs-PALS1-PATJ complex function in epithelial polarity.
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