Apical projections are integral functional units of epithelial cells. Microvilli and stereocilia are cylindrical apical projections that are formed of bundled actin. Microridges on the other hand, extend laterally, forming labyrinthine patterns on surfaces of various kinds of squamous epithelial cells. So far, the structural organization and functions of microridges have remained elusive. We have analyzed microridges on zebrafish epidermal cells using confocal and electron microscopy methods including electron tomography, to show that microridges are formed of F-actin networks and require the function of the Arp2/3 complex for their maintenance. During development, microridges begin as F-actin punctae showing signatures of branching and requiring an active Arp2/3 complex. Using inhibitors of actin polymerization and the Arp2/3 complex, we show that microridges organize the surface glycan layer. Our analyses have unraveled the F-actin organization supporting the most abundant and evolutionarily conserved apical projection, which functions in glycan organization.
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