Kelley M, Yochem J, Krieg M, Calixto A, Heiman MG, Kuzmanov A, Meli V, Chalfie M, Goodman MB, Shaham S, Frand A, Fay DS.
During development, biomechanical forces contour the body and provide shape to internal organs. Using genetic and molecular approaches in combination with a FRET-based tension sensor, we characterized a pulling force exerted by the elongating pharynx (foregut) on the anterior epidermis during C. elegans embryogenesis. Resistance of the epidermis to this force and to actomyosin-based circumferential constricting forces is mediated by FBN-1, a ZP domain protein related to vertebrate fibrillins. fbn-1 was required specifically within the epidermis and FBN-1 was expressed in epidermal cells and secreted to the apical surface as a putative component of the embryonic sheath. Tiling array studies indicated that fbn-1 mRNA processing requires the conserved alternative splicing factor MEC-8/RBPMS. The conserved SYM-3/FAM102A and SYM-4/WDR44 proteins, which are linked to protein trafficking, function as additional components of this network. Our studies demonstrate the importance of the apical extracellular matrix in preventing mechanical deformation of the epidermis during development.