Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2014 Aug 11;111(34):12444-9. Epub 2014 Aug 11.
Departments of Cell and Developmental Biology and Medicine, Cardiovascular Institute, and Institute for Regenerative Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104; and
Changing the morphology of a simple epithelial tube to form a highly ramified branching network requires changes in cell behavior that lead to tissue-wide changes in organ shape. How epithelial cells in branched organs modulate their shape and behavior to promote bending and sculpting of the epithelial sheet is not well understood, and the mechanisms underlying this process remain obscure. We show that the Wnt receptor Frizzled 2 (Fzd2) is required for domain branch formation during the initial establishment of the respiratory tree. Live imaging and transcriptome analysis of lung-branching morphogenesis demonstrate that Fzd2 promotes changes in epithelial cell length and shape. These changes in cell morphology deform the developing epithelial tube to generate and maintain new domain branches. Fzd2 controls branch formation and the shape of the epithelial tube by regulating Rho signaling and by the localization of phospho-myosin light chain 2, in turn controlling the changes in the shape of epithelial cells during morphogenesis. This study demonstrates the importance of Wnt/Fzd2 signaling in promoting and maintaining changes in epithelial cell shape that affect development of a branching network.