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      A WAVE2–Arp2/3 actin nucleator apparatus supports junctional tension at the epithelial zonula adherens

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          WAVE2–Arp2/3 is a major nucleator of actin assembly at the zonula adherens and likely acts in response to junctional Rac signaling. It supports myosin II recruitment to, and tension generation at, the junction.


          The epithelial zonula adherens (ZA) is a specialized adhesive junction where actin dynamics and myosin-driven contractility coincide. The junctional cytoskeleton is enriched in myosin II, which generates contractile force to support junctional tension. It is also enriched in dynamic actin filaments, which are replenished by ongoing actin assembly. In this study we sought to pursue the relationship between actin assembly and junctional contractility. We demonstrate that WAVE2–Arp2/3 is a major nucleator of actin assembly at the ZA and likely acts in response to junctional Rac signaling. Furthermore, WAVE2–Arp2/3 is necessary for junctional integrity and contractile tension at the ZA. Maneuvers that disrupt the function of either WAVE2 or Arp2/3 reduced junctional tension and compromised the ability of cells to buffer side-to-side forces acting on the ZA. WAVE2–Arp2/3 disruption depleted junctions of both myosin IIA and IIB, suggesting that dynamic actin assembly may support junctional tension by facilitating the local recruitment of myosin.

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          Most cited references 32

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          The Small GTPases Rho and Rac Are Required for the Establishment of Cadherin-dependent Cell–Cell Contacts

          Cadherins are calcium-dependent cell–cell adhesion molecules that require the interaction of the cytoplasmic tail with the actin cytoskeleton for adhesive activity. Because of the functional relationship between cadherin receptors and actin filament organization, we investigated whether members of the Rho family of small GTPases are necessary for cadherin adhesion. In fibroblasts, the Rho family members Rho and Rac regulate actin polymerization to produce stress fibers and lamellipodia, respectively. In epithelial cells, we demonstrate that Rho and Rac are required for the establishment of cadherin-mediated cell–cell adhesion and the actin reorganization necessary to stabilize the receptors at sites of intercellular junctions. Blocking endogenous Rho or Rac selectively removed cadherin complexes from junctions induced for up to 3 h, while desmosomes were not perturbed. In addition, withdrawal of cadherins from intercellular junctions temporally precedes the removal of CD44 and integrins, other microfilament-associated receptors. Our data showed that the concerted action of Rho and Rac modulate the establishment of cadherin adhesion: a constitutively active form of Rac was not sufficient to stabilize cadherindependent cell–cell contacts when endogenous Rho was inhibited. Upon induction of calcium-dependent intercellular adhesion, there was a rapid accumulation of actin at sites of cell–cell contacts, which was prevented by blocking cadherin function, Rho or Rac activity. However, if cadherin complexes are clustered by specific antibodies attached to beads, actin recruitment to the receptors was perturbed by inhibiting Rac but not Rho. Our results provide new insights into the role of the small GTPases in the cadherin-dependent cell– cell contact formation and the remodelling of actin filaments in epithelial cells.
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            Apical constriction: a cell shape change that can drive morphogenesis.

            Biologists have long recognized that dramatic bending of a cell sheet may be driven by even modest shrinking of the apical sides of cells. Cell shape changes and tissue movements like these are at the core of many of the morphogenetic movements that shape animal form during development, driving processes such as gastrulation, tube formation, and neurulation. The mechanisms of such cell shape changes must integrate developmental patterning information in order to spatially and temporally control force production-issues that touch on fundamental aspects of both cell and developmental biology and on birth defects research. How does developmental patterning regulate force-producing mechanisms, and what roles do such mechanisms play in development? Work on apical constriction from multiple systems including Drosophila, Caenorhabditis elegans, sea urchin, Xenopus, chick, and mouse has begun to illuminate these issues. Here, we review this effort to explore the diversity of mechanisms of apical constriction, the diversity of roles that apical constriction plays in development, and the common themes that emerge from comparing systems. Copyright 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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              Actin network architecture can determine myosin motor activity.

              The organization of actin filaments into higher-ordered structures governs eukaryotic cell shape and movement. Global actin network size and architecture are maintained in a dynamic steady state through regulated assembly and disassembly. Here, we used experimentally defined actin structures in vitro to investigate how the activity of myosin motors depends on network architecture. Direct visualization of filaments revealed myosin-induced actin network deformation. During this reorganization, myosins selectively contracted and disassembled antiparallel actin structures, while parallel actin bundles remained unaffected. The local distribution of nucleation sites and the resulting orientation of actin filaments appeared to regulate the scalability of the contraction process. This "orientation selection" mechanism for selective contraction and disassembly suggests how the dynamics of the cellular actin cytoskeleton can be spatially controlled by actomyosin contractility.

                Author and article information

                Role: Monitoring Editor
                Mol Biol Cell
                Mol. Biol. Cell
                Mol. Bio. Cell
                Molecular Biology of the Cell
                The American Society for Cell Biology
                01 December 2012
                : 23
                : 23
                : 4601-4610
                aDivision of Molecular Cell Biology, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, St. Lucia, Brisbane 4072, Australia
                bSchool for Biomedical Sciences, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Brisbane 4072, Australia
                University of Wisconsin
                Author notes
                1Address correspondence to: Alpha S. Yap ( a.yap@ ).
                © 2012 Verma et al. This article is distributed by The American Society for Cell Biology under license from the author(s). Two months after publication it is available to the public under an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License (

                “ASCB®,” “The American Society for Cell Biology®,” and “Molecular Biology of the Cell®” are registered trademarks of The American Society of Cell Biology.


                Molecular biology


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