Anisotropic Crb accumulation, modulated by Src42A, is coupled to polarised epithelial tube growth in <i>Drosophila</i>

by Ivette Olivares-Castiñeira, Marta Llimargas

The control of the size of internal tubular organs, such as the lungs or vascular system, is critical for proper physiological activity and to prevent disease or malformations. This control incorporates the intrinsic physical anisotropy of tubes to generate proportionate organs that match their function. The exact mechanisms underlying tube size control and how tubular anisotropy is translated at the cellular level are still not fully understood. Here we investigate these mechanisms using the Drosophila tracheal system. We show that the apical polarity protein Crumbs transiently accumulates anisotropically at longitudinal cell junctions during tube elongation. We provide evidence indicating that the accumulation of Crumbs in specific apical domains correlates with apical surface expansion, suggesting a link between the anisotropic accumulation of Crumbs at the cellular level and membrane expansion. We find that Src42A is required for the anisotropic accumulation of Crumbs, thereby identifying the first polarised cell behaviour downstream of Src42A. Our results indicate that Src42A regulates a mechanism that increases the fraction of Crb protein at longitudinal junctions, and genetic interaction experiments are consistent with Crb acting downstream of Src42A in controlling tube size. Collectively, our results suggest a model in which Src42A would sense the inherent anisotropic mechanical tension of the tube and translate it into a polarised Crumbs accumulation, which may promote a bias towards longitudinal membrane expansion, orienting cell elongation and, as a consequence, longitudinal growth at the tissue level. This work provides new insights into the key question of how organ growth is controlled and polarised and unveils the function of two conserved proteins, Crumbs and Src42A, with important roles in development and homeostasis as well as in disease, in this biological process.

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