The C. elegans Zonula Occludens Ortholog Cooperates with the Cadherin Complex to Recruit Actin during Morphogenesis

Christina Lockwood, Ronen Zaidel-Bar, Jeff Hardin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The dramatic cell-shape changes necessary to form a multicellular organism require cell-cell junctions to be both pliable and strong. The zonula occludens (ZO) subfamily of membrane-associated guanylate kinases (MAGUKs) are scaffolding molecules thought to regulate cell-cell adhesion [1-3], but there is little known about their roles in vivo. To elucidate the functional role of ZO proteins in a living embryo, we have characterized the sole C. elegans ZO family member, ZOO-1. ZOO-1 localizes with the cadherin-catenin complex during development, and its junctional recruitment requires the transmembrane proteins HMR-1/E-cadherin and VAB-9/claudin, but surprisingly, not HMP-1/α-catenin or HMP-2/β-catenin. zoo-1 knockdown results in lethality during elongation, resulting in the rupture of epidermal cell-cell junctions under stress and failure of epidermal sheet sealing at the ventral midline. Consistent with a role in recruiting actin to the junction in parallel to the cadherin-catenin complex, zoo-1 loss of function reduces the dynamic recruitment of actin to junctions and enhances the severity of actin filament defects in hypomorphic alleles of hmp-1 and hmp-2. These results show that ZOO-1 cooperates with the cadherin-catenin complex to dynamically regulate strong junctional anchorage to the actin cytoskeleton during morphogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1333-1337
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number17
StatePublished - 9 Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
Machaiah Foundation
National Institutes of HealthGM078747
National Institute of General Medical SciencesR01GM058038


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