Apical constriction and epithelial invagination are regulated by BMP activity

Biol Open. 2015 Nov 30;4(12):1782-91. doi: 10.1242/bio.015263.


Epithelial invagination is a morphological process in which flat cell sheets transform into three-dimensional structures through bending of the tissue. It is accompanied by apical constriction, in which the apical cell surface is reduced in relation to the basal cell surface. Although much is known about the intra-cellular molecular machinery driving apical constriction and epithelial invagination, information of how extra-cellular signals affect these processes remains insufficient. In this study we have established several in vivo assays of placodal invagination to explore whether the external signal BMP regulates processes connected to epithelial invagination. By inhibiting BMP activity in prospective cranial placodes, we provide evidence that BMP signals are required for RhoA and F-actin rearrangements, apical constriction, cell elongation and epithelial invagination. The failure of placode invagination after BMP inhibition appears to be a direct consequence of disrupted apical accumulation of RhoA and F-actin, rather than changes in cell death or proliferation. In addition, our results show that epithelial invagination and acquisition of placode-specific identities are two distinct and separable developmental processes. In summary, our results provide evidence that BMP signals promote epithelial invagination by acting upstream of the intracellular molecular machinery that drives apical constriction and cell elongation.

Keywords: Apical constriction; BMP; F-actin; Invagination; Placodes; RhoA.