Mediolateral cell intercalation is a morphogenetic strategy used throughout animal development to reshape tissues. Dorsal intercalation in the Caenorhabditis elegans embryo involves the mediolateral intercalation of two rows of dorsal epidermal cells to create a single row that straddles the dorsal midline, and thus is a simple model to study cell intercalation. Polarized protrusive activity during dorsal intercalation requires the C. elegans Rac and RhoG orthologs CED-10 and MIG-2, but how these GTPases are regulated during intercalation has not been thoroughly investigated. In this study, we characterized the role of the Rac-specific guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) TIAM-1 in regulating actin-based protrusive dynamics during dorsal intercalation. We found that TIAM-1 can promote formation of the main medial lamellipodial protrusion extended by intercalating cells through its canonical GEF function, whereas its N-terminal domains function to negatively regulate the generation of ectopic filiform protrusions around the periphery of intercalating cells. We also show that the guidance receptor UNC-5 inhibits these ectopic filiform protrusions in dorsal epidermal cells and that this effect is in part mediated via TIAM-1. These results expand the network of proteins that regulate basolateral protrusive activity during directed rearrangement of epithelial cells in animal embryos.

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