Non-junctional E-Cadherin Clusters Regulate the Actomyosin Cortex in the C. elegans Zygote. Current Biology, December 2016.

By Anup Padmanabhan1, Hui Ting Ong1, Ronen Zaidel-Bar2

Current Biology. December 2016. Epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.10.032.


Classical cadherins are well known for their essential function in mediating cell-cell adhesion via their extra-cellular cadherin domains and intra-cellular connections to the actin cytoskeleton [1-3]. There is evidence, however, of adhesion-independent cadherin clusters existing outside of cell-cell junctions [4-6]. What function, if any, these clusters have is not known. HMR-1, the sole classical cadherin in Caenorhabditis elegans, plays essential roles during gastrulation, blastomere polarity establishment, and epidermal morphogenesis [7-11]. To elucidate the physiological roles of non-junctional cadherin, we analyzed HMR-1 in the C. elegans zygote, which is devoid of neighbors. We show that non-junctional clusters of HMR-1 form during the one-cell polarization stage and associate with F-actin at the cortex during episodes of cortical flow. Non-junctional HMR-1 clusters downregulate RHO-1 activity and inhibit accumulation of non-muscle myosin II (NMY-2) at the anterior cortex. We found that HMR-1 clusters impede cortical flows and play a role in preserving the integrity of the actomyosin cortex, preventing it from splitting in two. Importantly, we uncovered an inverse relationship between the amount of HMR-1 at the cell surface and the rate of cytokinesis. The effect of HMR-1 clusters on cytokinesis is independent of their effect on NMY-2 levels, and is also independent of their extra-cellular domains. Thus, in addition to their canonical role in inter-cellular adhesion, HMR-1 clusters regulate RHO-1 activity and NMY-2 level at the cell surface, reinforce the stability of the actomyosin cortex, and resist its movement to influence cell-shape dynamics.


1Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore.
2Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore; Department of Biomedical Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore.