Studies of the developing trophectoderm in the mouse embryo have shown that extensive cellular remodeling occurs during epithelial formation. In this investigation, confocal immunofluorescence microscopy is used to examine the three-dimensional changes in cellular architecture that take place during the polarization of a terminally differentiated epithelial cell line. Madin-Darby canine kidney cells were plated at a low density on permeable filter supports. Antibodies that specifically recognize components of the tight junction, adherens junction, microtubules, centrosomes, and the Golgi complex were used to study the spatial remodeling of the cytoarchitecture during the formation of the polarized cell layer. The immunofluorescence data were correlated with establishment of functional tight junctions as measured by transepithelial resistance and back-exchange of the cell surface, labeled with metabolites of the fluorescent lipid analogue N-(7-[4-nitrobenzo-2-oxa-1,3-diazole]) aminocaproyl sphingosine. 1 d after plating, single cells had microtubules, radiating from a broad region, that contained the centrosomes and the Golgi complex. 2 d after plating, the cells had grown to confluence and had formed functional tight junctions close to the substratum. The centrioles had split and no longer organized the microtubules which were running above and below the nucleus. The Golgi complex had spread around the nucleus. By the fifth day after plating, the final polarized state had been achieved. The junctional complex had moved greater than 10 microns upward from its basal location. The centrioles were together below the apical membrane, and the Golgi complex formed a ribbon-like convoluted structure located in the apical region above the nucleus. The microtubules were organized in an apical web and in longitudinal microtubule bundles in the apical-basal axis of the columnar cell. The longitudinal microtubules were arranged with their minus ends spread over the apical region of the cell and their plus ends toward the basal region. These findings show that there is an extensive remodeling of epithelial cytoarchitecture after formation of cell-cell contacts. Reorganization of the microtubule network results in functional polarization of the cytoplasm.

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