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Adaptation of core mechanisms to generate cell polarity

Abstract

Cell polarity is defined as asymmetry in cell shape, protein distributions and cell functions. It is characteristic of single-cell organisms, including yeast and bacteria, and cells in tissues of multi-cell organisms such as epithelia in worms, flies and mammals. This diversity raises several questions: do different cell types use different mechanisms to generate polarity, how is polarity signalled, how do cells react to that signal, and how is structural polarity translated into specialized functions? Analysis of evolutionarily diverse cell types reveals that cell-surface landmarks adapt core pathways for cytoskeleton assembly and protein transport to generate cell polarity.

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Figure 1: Diversity of shapes of polarized cells (not to scale).
Figure 2: Protein pathways for generating cell polarity in budding yeast.
Figure 3: Protein pathways for generating cell polarity in fission yeast.
Figure 4: Organization of polarized epithelial cells and the apical junctional complex.
Figure 5: Generation of cell polarity in epithelia.

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Acknowledgements

This review is dedicated to I. Herskowitz (University of California, San Francisco) who first inspired me to think broadly about cell polarity.

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Correspondence to W. James Nelson.

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Nelson, W. Adaptation of core mechanisms to generate cell polarity. Nature 422, 766–774 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature01602

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