Background: The establishment of tissue architecture requires coordination between distinct processes including basement membrane assembly, cell adhesion, and polarity; however, the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. The actin cytoskeleton is ideally situated to orchestrate tissue morphogenesis due to its roles in mechanical, structural, and regulatory processes. However, the function of many pivotal actin-binding proteins in mammalian development is poorly understood. Results: Here, we identify a crucial role for anillin (ANLN), an actin-binding protein, in orchestrating epidermal morphogenesis. In utero RNAi-mediated silencing of Anln in mouse embryos disrupted epidermal architecture marked by adhesion, polarity, and basement membrane defects. Unexpectedly, these defects cannot explain the profoundly perturbed epidermis of Anln-depleted embryos. Indeed, even before these defects emerge, Anln-depleted epidermis exhibits abnormalities in mitotic rounding and its associated processes: chromosome segregation, spindle orientation, and mitotic progression, though not in cytokinesis that was disrupted only in Anln-depleted cultured keratinocytes. We further show that ANLN localizes to the cell cortex during mitotic rounding, where it regulates the distribution of active RhoA and the levels, activity, and structural organization of the cortical actomyosin proteins. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that ANLN is a major regulator of epidermal morphogenesis and identify a novel role for ANLN in mitotic rounding, a near-universal process that governs cell shape, fate, and tissue morphogenesis.
- Mitotic rounding