Lattice cells (LCs) in the developing Drosophila retina change shape before attaining final form. Previously, we showed that repeated contraction and expansion of apical cell contacts affect these dynamics. Here, we describe another factor, the assembly of a Rho1-dependent medioapical actomyosin ring formed by nodes linked by filaments that contract the apical cell area. Cell area contraction alternates with relaxation, generating pulsatile changes in cell area that exert force on neighboring LCs. Moreover, Rho1 signaling is sensitive to mechanical changes, becoming active when tension decreases and cells expand, while the negative regulator RhoGAP71E accumulates when tension increases and cells contract. This results in cycles of cell area contraction and relaxation that are reciprocally synchronized between adjacent LCs. Thus, mechanically sensitive Rho1 signaling controls pulsatile medioapical actomyosin contraction and coordinates cell behavior across the epithelium. Disrupting the kinetics of pulsing can lead to developmental errors, suggesting this process controls cell shape and tissue integrity during epithelial morphogenesis of the retina.

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