Epithelial cell polarity: New perspectives

A. H. Le Gall, C. Yeaman, A. Muesch, E. Rodriguez-Boulan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


All epithelial cells possess two distinct plasma membrane domains. The apical and basolateral domains differ in protein and lipid composition, and this allows the cell to perform a variety of vectorial functions. Structures involved in generating and maintaining these distinct membrane domains include the tight junction, which serves to restrict lateral diffusion within the membrane, and the cortical cytoskeleton, which can selectively bind and retain transmembrane proteins at a particular surface. A major means to generating membrane asymmetry lies in the ability of the cell to sort apical and basolateral proteins and target them to appropriate destinations. This sorting occurs predominantly at two intracellular sites: the trans-Golgi network, and the basolateral endosome. Constitutive protein traffic in epithelial cells has recently been shown to be regulated via classical signal transduction pathways involving heterotrimeric G proteins and protein kinases. The diversion of apical and basolateral proteins into specific pathways can be mediated by signals contained within these proteins. Apical sorting information is thought to be localized in the luminal domain of transmembrane proteins, and in the case of proteins anchored to the membrane via a GPI anchor, apical sorting information is provided by the lipid moiety. In contrast, basolateral signals hove been identified in the cytoplasmic domain of transmembrane proteins. Shared similarities between basolateral signals and those required for endocytosis have suggested that these two sorting processes are mechanistically related.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-284
Number of pages13
JournalSeminars in Nephrology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


Dive into the research topics of 'Epithelial cell polarity: New perspectives'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this