Mechanosensitive actomyosin structures in the maintenance of normal epithelia
Epithelial integrity is maintained by mechanosensitive pathways that guide the assembly and dynamics of epithelia-integrating cytoskeletal networks. Cytoskeletal structures together with the associated cell-adhesive complexes are sensitive to biophysical cues from the cell environment and thus the homeostasis of tissues is highly prone to any physical changes in the extracellular matrix. Biophysical alterations in the extracellular space are also clearly associated with several pathological conditions, such as invasive cancers and diseases of the vasculature and airways. The main object of our studies is to understand the principal mechanisms behind the regulation of epithelial actomyosin structures that in normal conditions provide tension to reinforce cell-adhesion complexes and maintain junctional integrity. We aim in revealing how the regulation of actomyosin bundles is altered by specific physical changes of the stroma and how these physical cues may contribute to the onset of pathophysiological conditions, including cancer progression. While we utilize in our studies epithelial tissue of the mammary gland from both human and canine, the basic molecular mechanisms behind the maintenance of distinct types of epithelial sheets are expected to be overlapping.