Background E-cadherin plays a pivotal role in tissue morphogenesis by forming clusters that support intercellular adhesion and transmit tension. What controls E-cadherin mesoscopic organization in clusters is unclear. Results We use 3D superresolution quantitative microscopy in Drosophila embryos to characterize the size distribution of E-cadherin nanometric clusters. The cluster size follows power-law distributions over three orders of magnitude with exponential decay at large cluster sizes. By exploring the predictions of a general theoretical framework including cluster fusion and fission events and recycling of E-cadherin, we identify two distinct active mechanisms setting the cluster-size distribution. Dynamin-dependent endocytosis targets large clusters only, thereby imposing a cutoff size. Moreover, interactions between E-cadherin clusters and actin filaments control the fission in a size-dependent manner. Conclusions E-cadherin clustering depends on key cortical regulators, which provide tunable and local control over E-cadherin organization. Our data provide the foundation for a quantitative understanding of how E-cadherin distribution affects adhesion and might regulate force transmission in vivo.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)