Epithelial cells assemble specialized actomyosin structures at E-Cadherin–based cell–cell junctions, and the force exerted drives cell shape change during morphogenesis. The mechanisms that build this supramolecular actomyosin structure remain unclear. We used ZO-knockdown MDCK cells, which assemble a robust, polarized, and highly organized actomyosin cytoskeleton at the zonula adherens, combining genetic and pharmacologic approaches with superresolution microscopy to define molecular machines required. To our surprise, inhibiting individual actin assembly pathways (Arp2/3, formins, or Ena/VASP) did not prevent or delay assembly of this polarized actomyosin structure. Instead, as junctions matured, micron-scale supramolecular myosin arrays assembled, with aligned stacks of myosin filaments adjacent to the apical membrane, overlying disorganized actin filaments. This suggested that myosin arrays might bundle actin at mature junctions. Consistent with this idea, inhibiting ROCK or myosin ATPase disrupted myosin localization/organization and prevented actin bundling and polarization. We obtained similar results in Caco-2 cells. These results suggest a novel role for myosin self-assembly, helping drive actin organization to facilitate cell shape change.

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