The wing of Drosophila melanogaster is covered by an array of distally pointing hairs. A hair begins as a single membrane outgrowth from each wing epithelial cell, and its distal orientation is determined by the restriction of outgrowth to a single distal site on the cell circumference (Wong, L., and P. Adler. 1993. J. Cell Biol. 123:209-211.). We have examined the roles of Cdc42 and Rac1 in the formation of wing hairs. We find that Cdc42 is required for localized actin polymerization in the extending hair. Interfering with Cdc42 activity by expression of a dominant negative protein abolishes both localized actin polymerization and hair outgrowth. In contrast, Rac1 is important for restricting the site at which hairs grow out. Cells expressing the dominant negative Rac1N17 fail to restrict outgrowth to a single site and give rise to multiple wing hairs. This polarity defect is associated with disturbances in the organization of junctional actin and also with disruption of an intricate microtubule network that is intimately associated with the junctional region. We also find that apical junctions and microtubules are involved in structural aspects of hair outgrowth. During hair formation, the apical microtubules that point distally elongate and fill the emerging wing hair. As the hair elongates, junctional proteins are reorganized on the proximal and distal edges of each cell.
Cdc42 and Rac1 are members of the rho family of small guanosinetriphosphatases and are required for a diverse set of cytoskeleton-membrane interactions in different cell types. Here we show that these two proteins contribute differently to the organization of epithelial cells in the Drosophila wing imaginal disc. Drac1 is required to assemble actin at adherens junctions. Failure of adherens junction actin assembly in Drac1 dominant-negative mutants is associated with increased cell death. Dcdc42, on the other hand, is required for processes that involve polarized cell shape changes during both pupal and larval development. In the third larval instar, Dcdc42 is required for apico-basal epithelial elongation. Whereas normal wing disc epithelial cells increase in height more than twofold during the third instar, cells that express a dominant-negative version of Dcdc42 remain short and are abnormally shaped. Dcdc42 localizes to both apical and basal regions of the cell during these events, and mediates elongation, at least in part, by effecting a reorganization of the basal actin cytoskeleton. These observations suggest that a common cdc42-based mechanism may govern polarized cell shape changes in a wide variety of cell types.