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Sensory axons induce epithelial lipid microdomain remodeling and determine the distribution of junctions in the epidermis

Rosa JB, Nassman KY, Sagasti A
Mol Biol Cell. 2022;[Epub ahead of print] doi:10.1091/mbc.E22-09-0396
Epithelial cell properties are determined by the polarized distribution of membrane lipids, the cytoskeleton, and adhesive junctions. Epithelia are often profusely innervated, but little work has addressed how neurites affect epithelial organization. We previously found that basal keratinocytes in the zebrafish epidermis enclose axons in ensheathment channels sealed by autotypic junctions. Here we characterized how axons remodel cell membranes, the cytoskeleton, and junctions in basal keratinocytes. At the apical surface of basal keratinocytes, axons organized lipid microdomains quantitatively enriched in reporters for PI(4,5)P2 and liquid-ordered (Lo) membranes. Lipid microdomains supported the formation of cadherin-enriched F-actin protrusions, which wrapped around axons, likely initiating ensheathment. In the absence of axons, cadherin-enriched microdomains formed on basal cells, but did not organize into contiguous domains. Instead, these isolated domains formed heterotypic junctions with periderm cells, a distinct epithelial cell type. Thus, axon endings dramatically remodel polarized epithelial components and regulate epidermal adhesion.
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