Myosin IIA-mediated forces regulate multicellular integrity during vascular sprouting.Mol Biol Cell. 2019 07 22; 30(16):1974-1984.MB
Angiogenic sprouting is a critical process involved in vascular network formation within tissues. During sprouting, tip cells and ensuing stalk cells migrate collectively into the extracellular matrix while preserving cell-cell junctions, forming patent structures that support blood flow. Although several signaling pathways have been identified as controlling sprouting, it remains unclear to what extent this process is mechanoregulated. To address this question, we investigated the role of cellular contractility in sprout morphogenesis, using a biomimetic model of angiogenesis. Three-dimensional maps of mechanical deformations generated by sprouts revealed that mainly leader cells, not stalk cells, exert contractile forces on the surrounding matrix. Surprisingly, inhibiting cellular contractility with blebbistatin did not affect the extent of cellular invasion but resulted in cell-cell dissociation primarily between tip and stalk cells. Closer examination of cell-cell junctions revealed that blebbistatin impaired adherens-junction organization, particularly between tip and stalk cells. Using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing, we further identified NMIIA as the major isoform responsible for regulating multicellularity and cell contractility during sprouting. Together, these studies reveal a critical role for NMIIA-mediated contractile forces in maintaining multicellularity during sprouting and highlight the central role of forces in regulating cell-cell adhesions during collective motility.