Activity and Distribution of Paxillin, Focal Adhesion Kinase, and Cadherin Indicate Cooperative Roles during Zebrafish Morphogenesis


We investigated the focal adhesion proteins paxillin and Fak, and the cell-cell adhesion protein cadherin in developing zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos. Cadherins are expressed in presomitic mesoderm where they delineate cells. The initiation of somite formation coincides with an increase in the phosphorylation of Fak, and the accumulation of Fak, phosphorylated Fak, paxillin, and fibronectin at nascent somite boundaries. In the notochord, cadherins are expressed on cells during intercalation, and phosphorylated Fak accumulates in circumferential rings where the notochord cells contact laminin in the perichordal sheath. Subsequently, changes in the orienta- tions of collagen fibers in the sheath suggest that Fak-mediated adhesion allows longitudinal expansion of the notochord, but not lateral expansion, resulting in notochord elongation. Novel observations showed that focal adhesion kinase and paxillin concentrate at sites of cell-cell adhesion in the epithelial enveloping layer and may associate with actin cytoskeleton at epithelial junctions containing cadherins. Fak is phosphorylated at these epithelial junctions but is not phosphorylated on Tyr397, implicating a noncanonical mechanism of regulation. These data suggest that Fak and paxillin may function in the integration of cadherin-based and integrin-based cell adhesion during the morphogenesis of the early zebrafish embryo.