Mesenchymal-epithelial transitions (METs) are important in both development and the growth of secondary tumours. Although the molecular basis for epithelial polarity is well studied, less is known about the cues that induce MET. Here we show that Netrins, well known as chemotropic guidance factors, provide a basal polarising cue during the Drosophila midgut MET. Both netrinA and netrinB are expressed in the visceral mesoderm, the substrate upon which midgut cells migrate, while their receptor frazzled (fra) is expressed in midgut cells. Netrins are required to polarise Fra to the basal surface, and Netrins and Fra undergo mutually-dependent endocytosis, with Fra subsequently trafficking to late endosomes. Mutations to fra and netrins affect both migration and MET but to different degrees. Loss of fra strongly delays migration, midgut cells fail to extend protrusions, and apico-basal polarisation of proteins and epithelium formation is inhibited. In netrin mutants, the migration phenotype is weaker and cells still extend protrusions. However, apico-basal polarisation of proteins, including Fra, and FActin is greatly disrupted and a monolayer fails to form. Delocalised accumulations of FActin are prevalent in netrin mutants but not fra mutants suggesting delocalised Fra may disrupt the MET. bPS localisation is also affected in netrin mutants in that a basal gradient is reduced while localisation to the midgut/VM interface is increased. Since a similar effect is seen when endocytosis is inhibited, Netrin and Fra may regulate Integrin turnover. The results suggest Netrin-dependent basal polarisation of Fra is critical for the formation of an epithelium.
- Mesenchymal epithelial transition