Background: Armadillo, the Drosophila orthologue of vertebrate ss-catenin, plays a dual role as the key effector of Wingless/Wnt1 signalling, and as a bridge between E-Cadherin and the actin cytoskeleton. In the absence of ligand, Armadillo is phosphorylated and targeted to the proteasome. Upon binding of Wg to its receptors, the "degradation complex" is inhibited; Armadillo is stabilised and enters the nucleus to transcribe targets.
Methodology/principal findings: Although the relationship between signalling and adhesion has been extensively studied, few in vivo data exist concerning how the "transcriptional" and "adhesive" pools of Armadillo are regulated to orchestrate development. We have therefore addressed how the subcellular distribution of Armadillo and its association with E-Cadherin change in larval wing imaginal discs, under wild type conditions and upon signalling. Using confocal microscopy, we show that Armadillo and E-Cadherin are spatio-temporally regulated during development, and that a punctate species becomes concentrated in a subapical compartment in response to Wingless. In order to further dissect this phenomenon, we overexpressed Armadillo mutants exhibiting different levels of activity and stability, but retaining E-Cadherin binding. Arm(S10) displaces endogenous Armadillo from the AJ and the basolateral membrane, while leaving E-Cadherin relatively undisturbed. Surprisingly, DeltaNArm(1-155) caused displacement of both Armadillo and E-Cadherin, results supported by our novel method of quantification. However, only membrane-targeted Myr-DeltaNArm(1-155) produced comparable nuclear accumulation of Armadillo and signalling to Arm(S10). These experiments also highlighted a row of cells at the A/P boundary depleted of E-Cadherin at the AJ, but containing actin.
Conclusions/significance: Taken together, our results provide in vivo evidence for a complex non-linear relationship between Armadillo levels, subcellular distribution and Wingless signalling. Moreover, this study highlights the importance of Armadillo in regulating the subcellular distribution of E-Cadherin.