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The Crumbs complex: from epithelial-cell polarity to retinal degeneration


Knust,  Elisabeth
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Max Planck Society;

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Bulgakova, N. A., & Knust, E. (2009). The Crumbs complex: from epithelial-cell polarity to retinal degeneration. Journal of Cell Science, 122(Pt 15), 2587-2596.

The evolutionarily conserved Crumbs protein complex is a key regulator of cell polarity and cell shape in both invertebrates and vertebrates. The important role of this complex in normal cell function is illustrated by the finding that mutations in one of its components, Crumbs, are associated with retinal degeneration in humans, mice and flies. Recent results suggest that the Crumbs complex plays a role in the development of other disease processes that are based on epithelial dysfunction, such as tumorigenesis or the formation of cystic kidneys. Localisation of the complex is restricted to a distinct region of the apical plasma membrane that abuts the zonula adherens in epithelia and photoreceptor cells of invertebrates and vertebrates, including humans. In addition to the core components, a variety of other proteins can be recruited to the complex, depending on the cell type and/or developmental stage. Together with diverse post-transcriptional and post-translational mechanisms that regulate the individual components, this provides an enormous functional diversity and flexibility of the complex. In this Commentary, we summarise findings concerning the organisation and modification of the Crumbs complex, and the conservation of its constituents from flies to mammals. In addition, we discuss recent results that suggest its participation in various human diseases, including blindness and tumour formation.