Planar Cell Polarity (PCP) is an evolutionarily conserved characteristic of animal tissues marked by coordinated polarization of cells or structures in the plane of a tissue. In insect wing epithelium, for instance, PCP is characterized by en masse orientation of hairs orthogonal to its apical-basal axis and pointing along the proximal-distal axis of the organ. Directional cue for PCP has been proposed to be generated by complex sets of interactions amongst three proteins - Fat (Ft), Dachsous (Ds) and Four-jointed (Fj). Ft and Ds are two atypical cadherins, which are phosphorylated by Fj, a Golgi kinase. Ft and Ds from adjacent cells bind heterophilically via their tandem cadherin repeats, and their binding affinities are regulated by Fj. Further, in the wing epithelium, sub-cellular levels of Ft-Ds heterodimers are seen to be elevated at the distal edges of individual cells, prefiguring their PCP. Mechanisms generating this sub-cellular asymmetry of Ft-Ds heterodimer in proximal and distal edges of cells, however, have not been resolved yet. Using a mathematical modeling approach, here we provide a framework for generation of this sub-cellular asymmetry of Ft-Ds heterodimer. First, we explain how the known interactions within Ft-Ds-Fj system translate into sub-cellular asymmetry of Ft-Ds heterodimer. Second, we show that this asymmetric localization of Ft-Ds heterodimer is lost when tissue-level gradient of Fj is flattened, or when phosphorylation of Ft by Fj is abolished, but not when tissue-level gradient of Ds is flattened or when phosphorylation of Ds is abrogated. Finally, we show that distal enrichment of Ds also amplifies Ft-Ds asymmetry. These observations reveal that gradient of Fj expression, phosphorylation of Ft by Fj and sub-cellular distal accumulation of Ds are three critical elements required for generating sub-cellular asymmetry of Ft-Ds heterodimer. Our model integrates the known experimental data and presents testable predictions for future studies.
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