Epithelia represent a unique situation where polarized cells must maintain sufficiently strong cell-cell contacts to guarantee the epithelial integrity indispensable for barrier functions. Nevertheless, epithelia must also keep sufficient plasticity which is crucial during development and morphogenesis. Adherens junctions and mechanical forces produced by the actomyosin cytoskeleton are major players for epithelial integrity maintenance and plasticity regulations. To understand how the epithelium is able to meet such a challenge, it is indispensable to determine how cellular junctions and mechanical forces acting at adherens junctions are regulated. Here, we investigate the tensile forces acting on adherens junctions via cadherin during cell division in the Xenopus embryos epithelium. Using the recently developed E-cadherin FRET tension sensor and a fastFLIM prototype microscope, we were able to measure mechanical forces applied on cadherin at cell-cell junctions. We have shown that the Xenopus epithelium is under tension, approximately 3 pN which remains stable, indicating that tensile forces acting on cadherin at the adherens junction are at equilibrium. Unexpectedly, mechanical tension across cadherin was similar between dividing and non-dividing epithelial cells.
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