Cortical F-actin stabilization generates apical-lateral patterns of junctional contractility that integrate cells into epithelia

Nat Cell Biol. 2014 Feb;16(2):167-78. doi: 10.1038/ncb2900. Epub 2014 Jan 12.


E-cadherin cell-cell junctions couple the contractile cortices of epithelial cells together, generating tension within junctions that influences tissue organization. Although junctional tension is commonly studied at the apical zonula adherens, we now report that E-cadherin adhesions induce the contractile actomyosin cortex throughout the apical-lateral axis of junctions. However, cells establish distinct regions of contractile activity even within individual contacts, producing high tension at the zonula adherens but substantially lower tension elsewhere. We demonstrate that N-WASP (also known as WASL) enhances apical junctional tension by stabilizing local F-actin networks, which otherwise undergo stress-induced turnover. Further, we find that cells are extruded from monolayers when this pattern of intra-junctional contractility is disturbed, either when N-WASP redistributes into lateral junctions in H-Ras(V12)-expressing cells or on mosaic redistribution of active N-WASP itself. We propose that local control of actin filament stability regulates the landscape of intra-junctional contractility to determine whether or not cells integrate into epithelial populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / physiology*
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Junctions / metabolism*
  • Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome Protein, Neuronal / physiology


  • Actins
  • Cadherins
  • WASL protein, human
  • Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome Protein, Neuronal