Wdpcp, a protein required for both planar cell polarity and ciliogenesis, regulates cell polarity and alignment via direct modulation of the actin cytoskeleton.
Planar cell polarity (PCP) regulates cell alignment required for collective cell movement during embryonic development. This requires PCP/PCP effector proteins, some of which also play essential roles in ciliogenesis, highlighting the long-standing question of the role of the cilium in PCP. Wdpcp, a PCP effector, was recently shown to regulate both ciliogenesis and collective cell movement, but the underlying mechanism is unknown. Here we show Wdpcp can regulate PCP by direct modulation of the actin cytoskeleton. These studies were made possible by recovery of a Wdpcp mutant mouse model. Wdpcp-deficient mice exhibit phenotypes reminiscent of Bardet–Biedl/Meckel–Gruber ciliopathy syndromes, including cardiac outflow tract and cochlea defects associated with PCP perturbation. We observed Wdpcp is localized to the transition zone, and in Wdpcp-deficient cells, Sept2, Nphp1, and Mks1 were lost from the transition zone, indicating Wdpcp is required for recruitment of proteins essential for ciliogenesis. Wdpcp is also found in the cytoplasm, where it is localized in the actin cytoskeleton and in focal adhesions. Wdpcp interacts with Sept2 and is colocalized with Sept2 in actin filaments, but in Wdpcp-deficient cells, Sept2 was lost from the actin cytoskeleton, suggesting Wdpcp is required for Sept2 recruitment to actin filaments. Significantly, organization of the actin filaments and focal contacts were markedly changed in Wdpcp-deficient cells. This was associated with decreased membrane ruffling, failure to establish cell polarity, and loss of directional cell migration. These results suggest the PCP defects in Wdpcp mutants are not caused by loss of cilia, but by direct disruption of the actin cytoskeleton. Consistent with this, Wdpcp mutant cochlea has normal kinocilia and yet exhibits PCP defects. Together, these findings provide the first evidence, to our knowledge, that a PCP component required for ciliogenesis can directly modulate the actin cytoskeleton to regulate cell polarity and directional cell migration.
Cilia are microscopic cell surface hair-like protrusions that can act as antennae to mediate cell signaling. Mutations disrupting ciliogenesis can cause many developmental anomalies associated with syndromes known as “ciliopathies.” Some developmental defects, such as limb polydactyly, arise from disruption of cilia-transduced sonic hedgehog signaling, while other defects, such as aberrant patterning of hair cells in the inner ear, arise from disrupted Wnt signaling resulting in modulation of planar cell polarity (PCP)—a process whereby cells are polarized and aligned. While ciliopathy phenotypes would suggest that cilia are involved in modulating PCP, the mechanistic link between cilia and PCP has been elusive. Our study using a mouse model carrying a mutation in Wdpcp, a gene required for both ciliogenesis and PCP, suggest that Wdpcp modulation of PCP involves interactions with the actin cytoskeleton separate from its function in ciliogenesis. We observe Wdpcp localization in cilia, where it is required for recruitment of proteins essential for ciliogenesis. Wdpcp interacts with Sept2, and is also found in actin filaments, where it regulates actin dynamics essential for PCP. Together, these findings show that PCP regulation by Wdpcp is distinct from its function in ciliogenesis and involves direct modulation of the actin cytoskeleton.