Functional role for stable microtubules in lens fiber cell elongation

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The process of tissue morphogenesis, especially for tissues reliant on the establishment of a specific cytoarchitecture for their functionality, depends a balanced interplay between cytoskeletal elements and their interactions with cell adhesion molecules. The microtubule cytoskeleton, which has many roles in the cell, is a determinant of directional cell migration, a process that underlies many aspects of development. We investigated the role of microtubules in development of the lens, a tissue where cell elongation underlies morphogenesis. Our studies with the microtubule depolymerizing agent nocodazole revealed an essential function for the acetylated population of stable microtubules in the elongation of lens fiber cells, which was linked to their regulation of the activation state of myosin. Suppressing myosin activation with the inhibitor blebbistatin could attenuate the loss of acetylated microtubules by nocodazole and rescue the effect of this microtubule depolymerization agent on both fiber cell elongation and lens integrity. Our results also suggest that acetylated microtubules impact lens morphogenesis through their interaction with N-cadherin junctions, with which they specifically associate in the region where lens fiber cell elongate. Disruption of the stable microtubule network increased N-cadherin junctional organization along lateral borders of differentiating lens fiber cells, which was prevented by suppression of myosin activity. These results reveal a role for the stable microtubule population in lens fiber cell elongation, acting in tandem with N-cadherin cell-cell junctions and the actomyosin network, giving insight into the cooperative role these systems play in tissue morphogenesis.

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