The epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a complex change in cell phenotype that is important for cell migration, morphogenesis and carcinoma metastasis. Loss of epithelial cell adhesion and tight regulation of cadherin adhesion proteins are crucial for EMT. Cells undergoing EMT often display cadherin switching, where they downregulate one cadherin and induce expression of another. However, the functions of the upregulated cadherins and their effects on cell motility are poorly understood. Neural crest cells (NCCs), which undergo EMT during development, lose N-cadherin and upregulate Cadherin 6 (Cdh6) prior to EMT. Cdh6 has been suggested to suppress EMT via cell adhesion, but also to promote EMT by mediating pro-EMT signals. Here, we determine novel roles for Cdh6 in generating cell motility during EMT. We use live imaging of NCC behavior in vivo to show that Cdh6 promotes detachment of apical NCC tails, an important early step of EMT. Furthermore, we show that Cdh6 affects spatiotemporal dynamics of F-actin and active Rho GTPase, and that Cdh6 is required for accumulation of F-actin in apical NCC tails during detachment. Moreover, Cdh6 knockdown alters the subcellular distribution of active Rho, which is known to promote localized actomyosin contraction that is crucial for apical NCC detachment. Together, these data suggest that Cdh6 is an important determinant of where subcellular actomyosin forces are generated during EMT. Our results also identify mechanisms by which an upregulated cadherin can generate cell motility during EMT.
- Received October 30, 2013.
- Accepted April 23, 2014.