Switching of α-Catenin From Epithelial to Neuronal Type During Lens Epithelial Cell Differentiation.
PURPOSE: Ocular lens fiber cell elongation, differentiation, and compaction are associated with extensive reorganization of cell adhesive interactions and cytoskeleton; however, our knowledge of proteins critical to these events is still evolving. This study characterizes the distribution pattern of neuronal-specific α-catenin (αN-catenin) and its interaction with the N-cadherin-associated adherens junctions (AJs) and their stability in the mouse lens fibers. METHODS: Expression and distribution of αN-catenin in developing mouse and adult human lenses was determined by RT-PCR, immunoblot, and immunofluorescence analyses. Characterization of αN-catenin and N-cadherin interacting proteins and colocalization analyses were performed using immunoprecipitation, mass spectrometry, and confocal imaging. Effects of periaxin deficiency on the stability of lens fiber cell AJs were evaluated using perixin-null mice. RESULTS: αN-catenin exhibits discrete distribution to lens fibers in both mouse and human lenses, undergoing a robust up-regulation during fiber cell differentiation and maturation. Epithelial-specific α-catenin (αE-catenin), in contrast, distributes primarily to the lens epithelium. αN-catenin and N-cadherin reciprocally coimmunoprecipitate and colocalize along with β-catenin, actin, spectrin, vinculin, Armadillo repeat protein deleted in velo-cardio-facial syndrome homolog, periaxin, and ankyrin-B in lens fibers. Fiber cells from periaxin-null mouse lenses revealed disrupted N-cadherin/αN-catenin-based AJs. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that the discrete shift in α-catenin expression from αE-catenin to αN-catenin subtype that occurs during lens epithelial cell differentiation may play a key role in fiber cell cytoarchitecture by regulating the assembly and stability of N-cadherin-based AJs. This study also provides evidence for the importance of the fiber cell-specific cytoskeletal interacting periaxin, in the stability of N-cadherin/αN-catenin-based AJs in lens fibers.
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