The strong mechanical attachments - the "glue" -- that hold together the cells of the skin and the other epithelial tissues of the body are the adherens junctions.
These junctions are responsible for maintaining the shape and integrity of the sheets of epithelial cells that line such body cavities as the digestive tract, as well as the surfaces of structures such as the heart. Defects in the proteins of these attachments have been implicated as potential contributors to the development and spread of cancer.
Recent research on Drosophila flies, combined with previous studies in cell cultures, are challenging the traditional view that adherens junctions maintain tissue integrity by passively resisting disruptive forces.
In studies with Drosophila embryos, the Princeton University lab of Nobel laureate Eric Wieschaus, Ph.D., has uncovered the first evidence in living organisms that adherens junctions actively respond to mechanical cues by remodeling their own position and intensity, which in turn restructures the cells.
Mo Weng, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the lab, used live imaging and quantitative image analysis of fixed and live embryos to determine that these changes depend on mechanical force mediated by the motor protein myosin and precede the changes in the distribution of cell polarity proteins, such as Bazooka, that are responsible for spatial organization of the cells.
Understanding the regulation and functioning of adherens junctions sheds light on the organization of multi-cellularity -- from cell-cell contacts to the remodeling of tissues and organs during life.
"Mechanical force induced adherens junctions remodeling." Mo Weng2, Eric Wieschaus1,2. 1) Howard Hughes Medical Institute; 2) Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ.
Founded in 1931, the Genetics Society of America (GSA) is the professional scientific society for genetics researchers and educators. The Society's more than 5,000 members worldwide work to deepen our understanding of the living world by advancing the field of genetics, from the molecular to the population level. GSA promotes research and fosters communication through a number of GSA-sponsored conferences including regular meetings that focus on particular model organisms. GSA publishes two peer-reviewed, peeredited scholarly journals: GENETICS, which has published high quality original research across the breadth of the field since 1916, and G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics, an open-access journal launched in 2011 to disseminate high quality foundational research in genetics and genomics. The society also has a deep commitment to education and fostering the next generation of scholars in the field. For more information about GSA, please visit http://www.