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J Cell Biol. 2007 Jul 30;178(3):517-27. Epub 2007 Jul 23.

Localized zones of Rho and Rac activities drive initiation and expansion of epithelial cell-cell adhesion.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Spatiotemporal coordination of cell-cell adhesion involving lamellipodial interactions, cadherin engagement, and the lateral expansion of the contact is poorly understood. Using high-resolution live-cell imaging, biosensors, and small molecule inhibitors, we investigate how Rac1 and RhoA regulate actin dynamics during de novo contact formation between pairs of epithelial cells. Active Rac1, the Arp2/3 complex, and lamellipodia are initially localized to de novo contacts but rapidly diminish as E-cadherin accumulates; further rounds of activation and down-regulation of Rac1 and Arp2/3 occur at the contacting membrane periphery, and this cycle repeats as a restricted membrane zone that moves outward with the expanding contact. The cortical bundle of actin filaments dissolves beneath the expanding contacts, leaving actin bundles at the contact edges. RhoA and actomyosin contractility are activated at the contact edges and are required to drive expansion and completion of cell-cell adhesion. We show that zones of Rac1 and lamellipodia activity and of RhoA and actomyosin contractility are restricted to the periphery of contacting membranes and together drive initiation, expansion, and completion of cell-cell adhesion.

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