Summary Background Epithelial tissues undergo extensive collective movements during morphogenesis, repair, and renewal. Collective epithelial cell migration requires the intercellular coordination of cell-cell adhesions and the establishment of anterior-posterior polarity, while maintaining apical-basal polarity, but how this is achieved at the molecular level is not well understood. Results Using an RNA interference-based screen to identify Rho family GTPase regulators required for the collective migration of human bronchial epithelial cells, we identified myosin-IXA (gene name: Myo9a). Depletion of myosin-IXA, a RhoGAP and actin motor protein, in collectively migrating cells led to altered organization of the actin cytoskeleton and tension-dependent disruption of cell-cell adhesions, followed by an inability to form new adhesions resulting in cell scattering. Closer examination revealed that myosin-IXA is required during the formation of junction-associated actin bundles soon after cell-cell contact. Structure-function analysis of myosin-IXA revealed that the motor domain is necessary and sufficient for binding to actin filaments, whereas expression of the RhoGAP domain partially rescued the cell scattering phenotype induced by myosin-IXA depletion. Finally, a fluorescence resonance energy transfer biosensor revealed a significant increase in Rho activity at nascent cell-cell contacts in myosin-IXA depleted cells compared to controls. Conclusion We propose that myosin-IXA locally regulates Rho and the assembly of thin actin bundles associated with nascent cell-cell adhesions and that this is required to sustain the collective migration of epithelial cells.