Dorsal closure (DC) is a developmental process in which two contralateral epithelial sheets migrate to seal a large hole in the dorsal ectoderm of the Drosophila embryo. Two signaling pathways act sequentially to orchestrate this dynamic morphogenetic process. First, c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) signaling activity in the dorsal-most leading edge (LE) cells of the epidermis induces expression of decapentaplegic (dpp). Second, Dpp, a secreted TGF-β homolog, triggers cell shape changes in the adjacent, ventrally located lateral epidermis, that guide the morphogenetic movements and cell migration mandatory for DC. Here we uncover a cell non-autonomous requirement for the Epidermal growth factor receptor (Egfr) pathway in the lateral epidermis for sustained dpp expression in the LE. Specifically, we demonstrate that Egfr pathway activity in the lateral epidermis prevents expression of the gene scarface (scaf), encoding a secreted antagonist of JNK signaling. In embryos with compromised Egfr signaling, upregulated Scaf causes reduction of JNK activity in LE cells, thereby impeding completion of DC. Our results identify a new developmental role for Egfr signaling in regulating epithelial plasticity via crosstalk with the JNK pathway
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