ABSTRACT: An essential question of morphogenesis is how patterns arise without preexisting positional information, as inspired by Turing. In the past few years, cytoskeletal flows in the cell cortex have been identified as a key mechanism of molecular patterning at the subcellular level. Theoretical and in vitro studies have suggested that biological polymers such as actomyosin gels have the property to self-organize, but the applicability of this concept in an in vivo setting remains unclear. Here, we report that the regular spacing pattern of supracellular actin rings in the Drosophila tracheal tubule is governed by a self-organizing principle. We propose a simple biophysical model where pattern formation arises from the interplay of myosin contractility and actin turnover. We validate the hypotheses of the model using photobleaching experiments and report that the formation of actin rings is contractility dependent. Moreover, genetic and pharmacological perturbations of the physical properties of the actomyosin gel modify the spacing of the pattern, as the model predicted. In addition, our model posited a role of cortical friction in stabilizing the spacing pattern of actin rings. Consistently, genetic depletion of apical extracellular matrix caused strikingly dynamic movements of actin rings, mirroring our model prediction of a transition from steady to chaotic actin patterns at low cortical friction. Our results therefore demonstrate quantitatively that a hydrodynamical instability of the actin cortex can trigger regular pattern formation and drive morphogenesis in an in vivo setting.
Project description:Contraction of cortical actomyosin networks driven by myosin activation controls cell shape changes and tissue morphogenesis during animal development. In vitro studies suggest that contractility also depends on the geometrical organization of actin filaments. Here we analyze the function of actomyosin network topology in vivo using optogenetic stimulation of myosin-II in Drosophila embryos. We show that early during cellularization, hexagonally arrayed actomyosin fibers are resilient to myosin-II activation. Actomyosin fibers then acquire a ring-like conformation and become contractile and sensitive to myosin-II. This transition is controlled by Bottleneck, a Drosophila unique protein expressed for only a short time during early cellularization, which we show regulates actin bundling. In addition, it requires two opposing actin cross-linkers, Filamin and Fimbrin. Filamin acts synergistically with Bottleneck to facilitate hexagonal patterning, while Fimbrin controls remodeling of the hexagonal network into contractile rings. Thus, actin cross-linking regulates the spatio-temporal organization of actomyosin contraction in vivo, which is critical for tissue morphogenesis.
Project description:Morphogenesis of the Drosophila melanogaster embryo is associated with a dynamic reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton that is mediated by small GTPases of the Rho family. Often, Rho1 controls different aspects of cytoskeletal function in parallel, requiring a complex level of regulation. We show that the guanine triphosphate (GTP) exchange factor DRhoGEF2 is apically localized in epithelial cells throughout embryogenesis. We demonstrate that DRhoGEF2, which has previously been shown to regulate cell shape changes during gastrulation, recruits Rho1 to actin rings and regulates actin distribution and actomyosin contractility during nuclear divisions, pole cell formation, and cellularization of syncytial blastoderm embryos. We propose that DRhoGEF2 activity coordinates contractile actomyosin forces throughout morphogenesis in Drosophila by regulating the association of myosin with actin to form contractile cables. Our results support the hypothesis that specific aspects of Rho1 function are regulated by specific GTP exchange factors.
Project description:Contractile actomyosin networks generate forces that drive tissue morphogenesis. Actomyosin contractility is controlled primarily by reversible phosphorylation of the myosin-II regulatory light chain through the action of myosin kinases and phosphatases. While the role of myosin light-chain kinase in regulating contractility during morphogenesis has been largely characterized, there is surprisingly little information on myosin light-chain phosphatase (MLCP) function in this context. Here, we use live imaging of Drosophila follicle cells combined with mathematical modelling to demonstrate that the MLCP subunit flapwing (flw) is a key regulator of basal myosin oscillations and cell contractions underlying egg chamber elongation. Flw expression decreases specifically on the basal side of follicle cells at the onset of contraction and flw controls the initiation and periodicity of basal actomyosin oscillations. Contrary to previous reports, basal F-actin pulsates similarly to myosin. Finally, we propose a quantitative model in which periodic basal actomyosin oscillations arise in a cell-autonomous fashion from intrinsic properties of motor assemblies.
Project description:Actomyosin-based contractility acts on cadherin junctions to support tissue integrity and morphogenesis. The actomyosin apparatus of the epithelial zonula adherens (ZA) is built by coordinating junctional actin assembly with Myosin II activation. However, the physical interaction between Myosin and actin filaments that is necessary for contractility can induce actin filament turnover, potentially compromising the contractile apparatus itself.We now identify tension-sensitive actin assembly as one cellular solution to this design paradox. We show that junctional actin assembly is maintained by contractility in established junctions and increases when contractility is stimulated. The underlying mechanism entails the tension-sensitive recruitment of vinculin to the ZA. Vinculin, in turn, directly recruits Mena/VASP proteins to support junctional actin assembly. By combining strategies that uncouple Mena/VASP from vinculin or ectopically target Mena/VASP to junctions, we show that tension-sensitive actin assembly is necessary for junctional integrity and effective contractility at the ZA.We conclude that tension-sensitive regulation of actin assembly represents a mechanism for epithelial cells to resolve potential design contradictions that are inherent in the way that the junctional actomyosin system is assembled. This emphasizes that maintenance and regulation of the actin scaffolds themselves influence how cells generate contractile tension.
Project description:Actomyosin contractility plays a central role in a wide range of cellular processes, including the establishment of cell polarity, cell migration, tissue integrity, and morphogenesis during development. The contractile response is variable and depends on actomyosin network architecture and biochemical composition. To determine how this coupling regulates actomyosin-driven contraction, we used a micropatterning method that enables the spatial control of actin assembly. We generated a variety of actin templates and measured how defined actin structures respond to myosin-induced forces. We found that the same actin filament crosslinkers either enhance or inhibit the contractility of a network, depending on the organization of actin within the network. Numerical simulations unified the roles of actin filament branching and crosslinking during actomyosin contraction. Specifically, we introduce the concept of "network connectivity" and show that the contractions of distinct actin architectures are described by the same master curve when considering their degree of connectivity. This makes it possible to predict the dynamic response of defined actin structures to transient changes in connectivity. We propose that, depending on the connectivity and the architecture, network contraction is dominated by either sarcomeric-like or buckling mechanisms. More generally, this study reveals how actin network contractility depends on its architecture under a defined set of biochemical conditions.
Project description:Pulsed actomyosin contractility underlies diverse modes of tissue morphogenesis, but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. Here, we combined quantitative imaging with genetic perturbations to identify a core mechanism for pulsed contractility in early <i>Caenorhabditis elegans</i> embryos. We show that pulsed accumulation of actomyosin is governed by local control of assembly and disassembly downstream of RhoA. Pulsed activation and inactivation of RhoA precede, respectively, the accumulation and disappearance of actomyosin and persist in the absence of Myosin II. We find that fast (likely indirect) autoactivation of RhoA drives pulse initiation, while delayed, F-actin-dependent accumulation of the RhoA GTPase-activating proteins RGA-3/4 provides negative feedback to terminate each pulse. A mathematical model, constrained by our data, suggests that this combination of feedbacks is tuned to generate locally excitable RhoA dynamics. We propose that excitable RhoA dynamics are a common driver for pulsed contractility that can be tuned or coupled differently to actomyosin dynamics to produce a diversity of morphogenetic outcomes.
Project description:Contractile actomyosin bundles, stress fibers, contribute to morphogenesis, migration, and mechanosensing of non-muscle cells. In addition to actin and non-muscle myosin II (NMII), stress fibers contain a large array of proteins that control their assembly, turnover, and contractility. Calponin-3 (Cnn3) is an actin-binding protein that associates with stress fibers. However, whether Cnn3 promotes stress fiber assembly, or serves as either a positive or negative regulator of their contractility has remained obscure. Here, we applied U2OS osteosarcoma cells as a model system to study the function of Cnn3. We show that Cnn3 localizes to both NMII-containing contractile ventral stress fibers and transverse arcs, as well as to non-contractile dorsal stress fibers that do not contain NMII. Fluorescence-recovery-after-photobleaching experiments revealed that Cnn3 is a dynamic component of stress fibers. Importantly, CRISPR/Cas9 knockout and RNAi knockdown studies demonstrated that Cnn3 is not essential for stress fiber assembly. However, Cnn3 depletion resulted in increased and uncoordinated contractility of stress fibers that often led to breakage of individual actomyosin bundles within the stress fiber network. Collectively these results provide evidence that Cnn3 is dispensable for the assembly of actomyosin bundles, but that it is required for controlling proper contractility of the stress fiber network.
Project description:Subcellular fine-tuning of the actomyosin cytoskeleton is a prerequisite for polarized cell migration. We identify LSP (lymphocyte-specific protein) 1 as a critical regulator of actomyosin contractility in primary macrophages. LSP1 regulates adhesion and migration, including the parameters cell area and speed, and also podosome turnover, oscillation and protrusive force. LSP1 recruits myosin IIA and its regulators, including myosin light chain kinase and calmodulin, and competes with supervillin, a myosin hyperactivator, for myosin regulators, and for actin isoforms, notably ?-actin. Actin isoforms are anisotropically distributed in myosin IIA-expressing macrophages, and contribute to the differential recruitment of LSP1 and supervillin, thus enabling an actomyosin symmetry break, analogous to the situation in cells expressing two myosin II isoforms. Collectively, these results show that the cellular pattern of actin isoforms builds the basis for the differential distribution of two actomyosin machineries with distinct properties, leading to the establishment of discrete zones of actomyosin contractility.
Project description:During collective cell migration, front cells tend to extend a predominant leading protrusion, which is rarely present in cells at the side or rear positions. Using Drosophila border cells (BCs) as a model system of collective migration, we revealed the presence of a supracellular actomyosin network at the peripheral surface of BC clusters. We demonstrated that the Myosin II-mediated mechanical tension as exerted by this peripheral supracellular network not only mediated cell-cell communication between leading BC and non-leading BCs but also restrained formation of prominent protrusions at non-leading BCs. Further analysis revealed that a cytoplasmic dendritic actin network that depends on the function of Arp2/3 complex interacted with the actomyosin network. Together, our data suggest that the outward pushing or protrusive force as generated from Arp2/3-dependent actin polymerization and the inward restraining force as produced from the supracellular actomyosin network together determine the collective and polarized morphology of migratory BCs.
Project description:During development, forces transmitted between cells are critical for sculpting epithelial tissues. Actomyosin contractility in the middle of the cell apex (medioapical) can change cell shape (e.g., apical constriction) but can also result in force transmission between cells via attachments to adherens junctions. How actomyosin networks maintain attachments to adherens junctions under tension is poorly understood. Here, we discovered that microtubules promote actomyosin intercellular attachments in epithelia during <i>Drosophila melanogaster</i> mesoderm invagination. First, we used live imaging to show a novel arrangement of the microtubule cytoskeleton during apical constriction: medioapical Patronin (CAMSAP) foci formed by actomyosin contraction organized an apical noncentrosomal microtubule network. Microtubules were required for mesoderm invagination but were not necessary for initiating apical contractility or adherens junction assembly. Instead, microtubules promoted connections between medioapical actomyosin and adherens junctions. These results delineate a role for coordination between actin and microtubule cytoskeletal systems in intercellular force transmission during tissue morphogenesis.