Obstructor-A organizes matrix assembly at the apical cell surface to promote enzymatic cuticle maturation in Drosophila [Cell Biology]

March 3rd, 2015 by Pesch, Y.-Y., Riedel, D., Behr, M.

Assembly and maturation of the apical extracellular matrix (aECM) is crucial for protecting organisms, but underlying molecular mechanisms remain poorly understood. Epidermal cells secrete proteins and enzymes that assemble at the apical cell surface to provide epithelial integrity and stability during developmental growth and upon tissue damage. We analyzed molecular mechanisms of aECM assembly and identified the conserved chitin-binding protein Obstructor (Obst)-A as an essential regulator. We show in Drosophila that Obst-A is required to coordinate protein- and chitin-matrix packaging at the apical cell surface during development. Secreted by epidermal cells, the Obst-A protein is specifically enriched in the apical assembly zone where matrix components are packaged into their highly ordered architecture. In obst-A null mutant larvae, the assembly zone is strongly diminished resulting in severe disturbance of matrix-scaffold organization and impaired aECM integrity. Furthermore, enzymes that support aECM stability are mislocalized. As a biological consequence, cuticle architecture, integrity and function are disturbed in obst-A mutants finally resulting in immediate lethality upon wounding. Our studies identify a new core-organizing center, the assembly zone that controls aECM assembly at the apical cell surface. We propose a genetically conserved molecular mechanism by which Obst-A forms a matrix-scaffold to coordinate trafficking and localization of proteins and enzymes in the newly deposited aECM. This mechanism is essential for maturation and stabilization of the aECM in a growing and remodeling epithelial tissue as an outermost barrier.