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Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience

Cell corners essential for correct development of cell shapes

New study by the Sanson group published in PLoS Biology shows that cell corners are important for normal morphogenesis in epithelia

Abstract: In epithelia, tricellular vertices are emerging as important sites for the regulation of epithelial integrity and function. Compared to bicellular contacts, however, much less is known. In particular, resident proteins at tricellular vertices were identified only at occluding junctions, with none known at adherens junctions (AJs). In a previous study, we discovered that in Drosophila embryos, the adhesion molecule Sidekick (Sdk), well-known in invertebrates and vertebrates for its role in the visual system, localises at tricellular vertices at the level of AJs. Here, we survey a wide range of Drosophila epithelia and establish that Sdk is a resident protein at tricellular AJs (tAJs), the first of its kind. Clonal analysis showed that two cells, rather than three cells, contributing Sdk are sufficient for tAJ localisation. Super-resolution imaging using structured illumination reveals that Sdk proteins form string-like structures at vertices. Postulating that Sdk may have a role in epithelia where AJs are actively remodelled, we analysed the phenotype of sdk null mutant embryos during Drosophila axis extension using quantitative methods. We find that apical cell shapes are abnormal in sdk mutants, suggesting a defect in tissue remodelling during convergence and extension. Moreover, adhesion at apical vertices is compromised in rearranging cells, with apical tears in the cortex forming and persisting throughout axis extension, especially at the centres of rosettes. Finally, we show that polarised cell intercalation is decreased in sdk mutants. Mathematical modelling of the cell behaviours supports the notion that the T1 transitions of polarised cell intercalation are delayed in sdk mutants, in particular in rosettes. We propose that this delay, in combination with a change in the mechanical properties of the converging and extending tissue, causes the abnormal apical cell shapes in sdk mutant embryos.

Reference: Finegan TM, Hervieux N, Nestor-Bergmann A, Fletcher AG, Blanchard GB, Sanson B (2019) The tricellular vertex-specific adhesion molecule Sidekick facilitates polarised cell intercalation during Drosophila axis extension. PLoS Biol 17(12): e3000522.