Active wetting of epithelial tissues
Carlos Pérez, Integrative cell and tissue dynamics group
Key biological processes such as cancer and development are characterized by drastic transitions in tissue morphology. These rearrangements have been classically studied as a wetting problem. According to this theory, wettability of a substrate by an epithelium is determined by the competition between cell-cell and cell-substrate adhesion energies. In contrast, we found that, far from a passive process, tissue dewetting is an active process driven by tissue internal forces. Experimentally, we reproduced epithelial dewetting by promoting a progressive formation of intercellular junctions in a monolayer of epithelial cells. Interestingly, the formation of intercellular junctions produces an increase in cell contractility, with the subsequent increase in traction and intercellular stress. At a certain time, tissue tension overcomes cell-substrate maximum adhesion and the monolayer spontaneously dewets the substrate. We developed an active polar fluid model, finding both theoretically and experimentally that critical contractility to promote wetting-dewetting transition depends on cell-substrate adhesion and, unexpectedly, on tissue size. As a whole, this work generalizes wetting theory to living tissues, unveiling unprecedented properties due to their unique active nature.
Binding of ZO-1 to α5β1 integrins regulates the mechanical properties of α5β1-fibronectin links
Víctor González, Cellular and molecular mechanobiology group
Fundamental processes in cell adhesion, motility, and rigidity adaptation are regulated by integrin-mediated adhesion to the extracellular matrix (ECM). The link between the ECM component fibronectin (fn) and integrin α5β1 forms a complex with ZO-1 in cells at the edge of migrating monolayers, regulating cell migration. However, how this complex affects the α5β1-fn link is unknown. Here we show that the α5β1/ZO-1 complex decreases the resistance to force of α5β1–fn adhesions located at the edge of migrating cell monolayers while also increasing α5β1 recruitment. Consistently with a molecular clutch model of adhesion, this effect of ZO-1 leads to a decrease in the density and intensity of adhesions in cells at the edge of migrating monolayers. Taken together, our results unveil a new mode of integrin regulation through modification of the mechanical properties of integrin–ECM links, which may be harnessed by cells to control adhesion and migration.