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Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2011 Oct;23(5):531-9. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2011 Jul 20.

Dynamics of actomyosin contractile activity during epithelial morphogenesis.

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Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa, CSIC-UAM, Cantoblanco 28049, Madrid, Spain.


In the past few years, advances in microscopy and quantitative image analysis have lead to a completely new understanding of the processes underlying the cell shape changes and cell rearrangements that drive tissue morphogenesis. In a handful of tissues so far, though the number will surely increase rapidly, it has been shown that cell behaviour is not continuous but proceeds in pulses driven by the contractile activity of dynamic cortical actomyosin networks. The patterns and dynamics of temporary subcellular contractile foci, driven by local increases in actin and myosin, are remarkably similar in disparate tissues. Cells in all tissues display a similar range of intervals between contractions, with increasing frequencies associated with stronger tissue morphogenesis. Contractile foci appear to flow within cells with speeds that are consistent across tissues. We highlight the difference between contractile tension and stiffness, the latter being a requirement for any ratchet mechanism that stabilises contraction to produce effective tissue morphogenesis. At least two different types of ratchet mechanism are discussed, with the stiffness conferred either by a more stable actomyosin population at cell-cell junctions or through cortical actomyosin forming a quasi-stable supra-cellular network. Pulsatile contractions, polarized cell organization and various stiffening ratchet mechanisms combine to provide a rich variety of options for robust epithelial tissue remodelling.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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