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Let’s play a game of chutes and ladders

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In non-polarized cells, calcium-induced exocytosis of "conventional" lysosomes is important in diverse processes like membrane repair after exposure to pore-forming toxins and clearance of cellular debris. Resealing of torn membranes is especially critical for barrier epithelia that directly interact with pathogens and toxins, which can result in membrane microdisruptions and lesions. However, whether lysosomes participate in membrane repair in polarized epithelia has been an open question. We recently reported that in polarized Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells, localized influx of calcium induces lysosomes to fuse with the basolateral membrane. This spatial segregation of exocytosis depends on an intact actin cytoskeleton, membrane cholesterol and restricted distribution of fusion machinery such as the t-SNARE syntaxin 4. Our data show that the polarity of syntaxin 4 (which is regulated by the clathrin adaptor protein AP-1) dictates whether lysosomes parachute down to the basolateral membrane or take a ladder up to the apical membrane. Here, we speculate about additional machinery (such as the lysosomal calcium sensor synaptotagmin VII and the v-SNARE VAMP7) that could be involved in polarized fusion of lysosomes with the epithelial membrane. We also discuss the potential importance of lysosome exocytosis in maintaining membrane integrity in the retinal pigment epithelium, the primary tissue affected in blinding diseases such as age-related macular degeneration.

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