2022 Volume 47 Issue 2 Pages 55-73
The adherens junction (AJ) is an actin filament-anchoring junction. It plays a central role in epithelial morphogenesis through cadherin-based recognition and adhesion among cells. The stability and plasticity of AJs are required for the morphogenesis. An actin-binding α-catenin is an essential component of the cadherin-catenin complex and functions as a tension transducer that changes its conformation and induces AJ development in response to tension. Despite much progress in understanding molecular mechanisms of tension sensitivity of α-catenin, its significance on epithelial morphogenesis is still unknown. Here we show that the tension sensitivity of α-catenin is essential for epithelial cells to form round spheroids through proper multicellular rearrangement. Using a novel in vitro suspension culture model, we found that epithelial cells form round spheroids even from rectangular-shaped cell masses with high aspect ratios without using high tension and that increased tension sensitivity of α-catenin affected this morphogenesis. Analyses of AJ formation and cellular tracking during rounding morphogenesis showed cellular rearrangement, probably through AJ remodeling. The rearrangement occurs at the cell mass level, but not single-cell level. Hypersensitive α-catenin mutant-expressing cells did not show cellular rearrangement at the cell mass level, suggesting that the appropriate tension sensitivity of α-catenin is crucial for the coordinated round morphogenesis.
Key words: α-catenin, vinculin, adherens junction, morphogenesis, mechanotransduction