The regulation of morphogenesis by the basement membrane (BM) may rely on changes in its mechanical properties. To test this, we developed an AFM-based method to measure BM mechanical stiffness during two key processes in Drosophila ovarian follicle development. First, follicle elongation depends on epithelial cells that collectively migrate secreting BM fibrils perpendicularly to the anteroposterior axis. Our data show that BM stiffness increases during this migration and that fibril incorporation enhances BM stiffness. In addition, stiffness heterogeneity, due to oriented fibrils, is important for egg elongation. Second, epithelial cells change their shape from cuboidal to either squamous or columnar. We prove that BM softens around the squamous cells and that this softening depends on TGF? pathway. We also demonstrate that interactions between BM constituents are necessary for cell flattening. Altogether, these results show that BM mechanical properties are modified during development and that, in turn, such mechanical modifications influence both cell and tissue shapes.
References: Variations in basement membrane mechanics are linked to epithelial morphogenesis. Chlasta J, Milani P, Runel G, Duteyrat JL, Arias L, Lamiré LA, Boudaoud A, Grammont M. - Development. 2017 Oct 16. pii: dev.152652. doi: 10.1242/dev.152652.
Variations in basement membrane mechanics are linked to epithelial morphogenesis (publication in Development)