Spectrin is a membrane skeletal protein best known for its structural role in maintaining cell shape and protecting cells from mechanical damage. Here, we report that α/βH-spectrin (βH is also called karst) dynamically accumulates and dissolves at the fusogenic synapse between fusing Drosophila muscle cells, where an attacking fusion partner invades its receiving partner with actin-propelled protrusions to promote cell fusion. Using genetics, cell biology, biophysics and mathematical modelling, we demonstrate that spectrin exhibits a mechanosensitive accumulation in response to shear deformation, which is highly elevated at the fusogenic synapse. The transiently accumulated spectrin network functions as a cellular fence to restrict the diffusion of cell-adhesion molecules and a cellular sieve to constrict the invasive protrusions, thereby increasing the mechanical tension of the fusogenic synapse to promote cell membrane fusion. Our study reveals a function of spectrin as a mechanoresponsive protein and has general implications for understanding spectrin function in dynamic cellular processes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology