Collective endothelial cell migration – cadherin fingers lead the way
Arnold L. Hayer, Ph.D.
Department of Chemical and Systems Biology
The development and maintenance of the vasculature requires collective cell movement, during which neighboring cells coordinate the polarity of their migration machineries. We addressed the unresolved question of how polarity signals are transmitted from one cell to another across symmetrical cadherin junctions, using an in vitro model of collective endothelial cell migration.
We found that collectively migrating endothelial cells have polarized VE-cadherin-rich membrane protrusions, ‘cadherin fingers’, which leading cells extend from their rear and follower cells engulf at their front. In follower cells, engulfment of cadherin fingers occurs along with the formation of a lamellipodia-like zone with low actomyosin contractility, and requires VE-cadherin/catenin complexes and Arp2/3-driven actin polymerization. Lateral accumulation of cadherin fingers in follower cells precedes turning, and increased actomyosin contractility can initiate cadherin finger extension as well as engulfment by a neighboring cell, to promote follower behavior. Cadherin fingers create positively curved membrane surfaces only in the front of follower cells, which selectively recruit and polarize curvature sensing regulatory proteins. Thus, engulfment of cadherin fingers at the cell front converts symmetric cadherin junctions into polarized structures that support collective cell guidance.
Further, I will discuss our recent identification of a BAR domain and RhoGAP protein, which is required both for coordinated endothelial cell movement and vascular sprouting in vitro, and therefore establishes an intriguing mechanistic link between the asymmetric cadherin finger structure and RhoGTPase signaling.
host: Stan Froehner