Research ArticleBIOPHYSICS

Regulation and dynamics of force transmission at individual cell-matrix adhesion bonds

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Science Advances  15 May 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 20, eaax0317
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax0317


Integrin-based adhesion complexes link the cytoskeleton to the extracellular matrix (ECM) and are central to the construction of multicellular animal tissues. How biological function emerges from the tens to thousands of proteins present within a single adhesion complex remains unclear. We used fluorescent molecular tension sensors to visualize force transmission by individual integrins in living cells. These measurements revealed an underlying functional modularity in which integrin class controlled adhesion size and ECM ligand specificity, while the number and type of connections between integrins and F-actin determined the force per individual integrin. In addition, we found that most integrins existed in a state of near-mechanical equilibrium, a result not predicted by existing models of cytoskeletal force transduction. A revised model that includes reversible cross-links within the F-actin network can account for this result and suggests one means by which cellular mechanical homeostasis can arise at the molecular level.

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