The planar cell polarity pathway regulates cell polarity, adhesion, and rearrangement. Its cytoplasmic core components Prickle (Pk) and Dishevelled (Dvl) often localize as dense puncta at cell membranes to form antagonizing complexes and establish cell asymmetry. In vertebrates, Pk and Dvl have been implicated in actomyosin cortex regulation, but the mechanism of how these proteins control cell mechanics is unclear. Here we demonstrate that in Xenopus prechordal mesoderm cells, diffusely distributed, cytoplasmic Pk1 up-regulates the F-actin content of the cortex. This counteracts cortex down-regulation by Dvl2. Both factors act upstream of casein kinase II to increase or decrease cortical tension. Thus, cortex modulation by Pk1 and Dvl2 is translated into mechanical force and affects cell migration and rearrangement during radial intercalation in the prechordal mesoderm. Pk1 also forms puncta and plaques, which are associated with localized depletion of cortical F-actin, suggesting opposite roles for diffuse and punctate Pk1.

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