Molecular biology of the cell

RalA and RalB differentially regulate development of epithelial tight junctions.

PMID 22013078


Tight junctions (TJs) are structures indispensable to epithelial cells and are responsible for regulation of paracellular diffusion and maintenance of cellular polarity. Although many interactions between TJ constituents have been identified, questions remain concerning how specific functions of TJs are established and regulated. Here we investigated the roles of Ral GTPases and their common effector exocyst complex in the formation of nascent TJs. Unexpectedly, RNA interference-mediated suppression of RalA or RalB caused opposing changes in TJ development. RalA reduction increased paracellular permeability and decreased incorporation of components into TJs, whereas RalB reduction decreased paracellular permeability and increased incorporation of components into TJs. Activities of both Ral GTPases were mediated through the exocyst. Finally, we show that TJ-mediated separation of apical-basal membrane domains is established prior to equilibration of barrier function and that it is unaffected by Ral knockdown or specific composition of TJs.