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Dynamic contacts between cells within the developing neuroepithelium are poorly understood but play important roles in cell and tissue morphology and cell signalling. Here, using live-cell imaging and electron microscopy we reveal multiple protrusive structures in neuroepithelial apical endfeet of the chick embryonic spinal cord, including sub-apical protrusions that extend laterally within the tissue, and observe similar structures in human neuroepithelium. We characterise the dynamics, shape and cytoskeleton of these lateral protrusions and distinguish them from cytonemes, filopodia and tunnelling nanotubes. We demonstrate that lateral protrusions form a latticework of membrane contacts between non-adjacent cells, depend on actin but not microtubule dynamics, and provide a lamellipodial-like platform for further extending fine actin-dependent filipodia. We find that lateral protrusions depend on the actin-binding protein WAVE1 (also known as WASF1): misexpression of mutant WAVE1 attenuated protrusion and generated a round-ended apical endfoot morphology. However, this did not alter apico-basal cell polarity or tissue integrity. During normal neuronal delamination, lateral protrusions were withdrawn, but precocious protrusion loss induced by mutant WAVE1 was insufficient to trigger neurogenesis. This study uncovers a new form of cell-cell contact within the developing neuroepithelium, regulation of which prefigures neuronal delamination. This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper. © 2022. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


Ioannis Kasioulis, Alwyn Dady, John James, Alan Prescott, Pamela A Halley, Kate G Storey. A lateral protrusion latticework connects neuroepithelial cells and is regulated during neurogenesis. Journal of cell science. 2022 Mar 15;135(6)

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PMID: 35217862

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