We propose that the in vivo functions of NM II (non-muscle myosin II) can be divided between those that depend on the N-terminal globular motor domain and those less dependent on motor activity but more dependent on the C-terminal domain. The former, being more dependent on the kinetic properties of NM II to translocate actin filaments, are less amenable to substitution by different NM II isoforms, whereas the in vivo functions of the latter, which involve the structural properties of NM II to cross-link actin filaments, are more amenable to substitution. In light of this hypothesis, we examine the ability of NM II-A, as well as a motor-compromised form of NM II-B, to replace NM II-B and rescue neuroepithelial cell–cell adhesion defects and hydrocephalus in the brain of NM II-B-depleted mice. We also examine the ability of NM II-B as well as chimaeric forms of NM II (II-A head and II-B tail and vice versa) to substitute for NM II-A in cell–cell adhesions in II-A-ablated mice. However, we also show that certain functions, such as neuronal cell migration in the developing brain and vascularization of the mouse embryo and placenta, specifically require NM II-B and II-A respectively.

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