Viruses in the Study of the Polarity of Epithelial Membranes

  • Mary Taub


Transporting epithelial cells are present in many organs in vivo. These epithelial cells play an important role in regulating the passage of solutes from one tissue compartment to another. In order to perform such functions, transporting epithelial cells must possess a remarkable structural and functional polarity. Their plasma membrane is characterized by two distinct domains, which are separated by tight junctions: an apical (or mucosal) domain with microvilli, which often faces a lumenal compartment, and a basolateral (or serosal) domain, which is associated with another tissue compartment (Fig. 1). These two plasma membrane domains possess different transport systems, membrane receptors, and enzymes. For example, distal tubule cells of the kidney readsorb salt and water from the lumen of the tubule back into the blood. This vectorial transport is facilitated by the polarized structure of the distal tubule cells (Fig. 2). The apical surface (which faces the lumen of the tubule) possesses an amiloride-sensitive Na+ channel, as well as proteolytic enzymes (leucine aminopeptidase and alkaline Phosphatase). In contrast, the basolateral surface possesses high Na+ /K+ ATPase activity. Hormone-sensitive transepithelial solute transport is facilitated by the presence in the basolateral surface of arginine Vasopressin receptors coupled to adenylate cyclase. So, the polarized structure of the epithelial cell is essential to the appropriate expression of its differentiated transport functions.


Tight Junction Apical Membrane MDCK Cell Apical Surface Leucine Aminopeptidase 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Taub
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryState University of New York at Buffalo, School of MedicineBuffaloUSA

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