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Development October 1, 2013; 140 (20): 4266-76.

A dominant-negative provides new insights into FAK regulation and function in early embryonic morphogenesis.

Petridou NI , Stylianou P , Skourides PA .

FAK is a non-receptor tyrosine kinase involved in a wide variety of biological processes and crucial for embryonic development. In this manuscript, we report the generation of a new FAK dominant negative (FF), composed of the C terminus (FRNK) and the FERM domain of the protein. FF, unlike FRNK and FERM, mimics the localization of active FAK in the embryo, demonstrating that both domains are necessary to target FAK to its complexes in vivo. We show that the FERM domain has a role in the recruitment of FAK on focal adhesions and controls the dynamics of the protein on these complexes. Expression of FF blocks focal adhesion turnover and, unlike FRNK, acts as a dominant negative in vivo. FF expression in Xenopus results in an overall phenotype remarkably similar to the FAK knockout in mice, including loss of mesodermal tissues. Expression of FF in the animal cap revealed a previously unidentified role of FAK in early morphogenesis and specifically epiboly. We show that a fibronectin-derived signal transduced by FAK governs polarity and cell intercalation. Finally, failure of epiboly results in severe gastrulation problems that can be rescued by either mechanical or pharmacological relief of tension within the animal cap, demonstrating that epiboly is permissive for gastrulation. Overall, this work introduces a powerful new tool for the study of FAK, uncovers new roles for FAK in morphogenesis and reveals new mechanisms through which the FERM domain regulates the localization and dynamics of FAK.

PubMed ID: 24048589
Article link: Development

Species referenced: Xenopus laevis
Genes referenced: fn1 ptk2 vcl
Morpholinos: ptk2 MO1 vcl MO1