Tension-dependent stabilization of E-cadherin limits cell-cell contact expansion
Tension of the actomyosin cell cortex plays a key role in determining cell-cell contact growth and size. The level of cortical tension outside of the cell-cell contact, when pulling at the contact edge, scales with the total size to which a cell-cell contact can grow. Here we show in zebrafish primary germ layer progenitor cells that this monotonic relationship only applies to a narrow range of cortical tension increase, and that above a critical threshold, contact size inversely scales with cortical tension. This switch from cortical tension increasing to decreasing progenitor cell-cell contact size is caused by cortical tension promoting E-cadherin anchoring to the actomyosin cytoskeleton, thereby increasing clustering and stability of E-cadherin at the contact. Once tension-mediated E-cadherin stabilization at the contact exceeds a critical threshold level, the rate by which the contact expands in response to pulling forces from the cortex sharply drops, leading to smaller contacts at physiologically relevant timescales of contact formation. Thus, the activity of cortical tension in expanding cell-cell contact size is limited by tension stabilizing E-cadherin-actin complexes at the contact.
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