In epithelial tissues, cells tightly connect to each other through cell-cell junctions, but they also present the remarkable capacity of reorganizing themselves without compromising tissue integrity. Upon injury, simple epithelia efficiently resolve small lesions through the action of actin cytoskeleton contractile structures at the wound edge and cellular rearrangements. However, the underlying mechanisms and how they cooperate are still poorly understood. In this study, we combine live imaging and theoretical modeling to reveal a novel and indispensable role for occluding junctions (OJs) in this process. We demonstrate that OJ loss of function leads to defects in wound-closure dynamics: instead of contracting, wounds dramatically increase their area. OJ mutants exhibit phenotypes in cell shape, cellular rearrangements, and mechanical properties as well as in actin cytoskeleton dynamics at the wound edge. We propose that OJs are essential for wound closure by impacting on epithelial mechanics at the tissue level, which in turn is crucial for correct regulation of the cellular events occurring at the wound edge.
© 2018 Carvalho et al.