Orientation-specific responses to sustained uniaxial stretching in focal adhesion growth and turnover. Academic Article uri icon


  • Cells are mechanosensitive to extracellular matrix (ECM) deformation, which can be caused by muscle contraction or changes in hydrostatic pressure. Focal adhesions (FAs) mediate the linkage between the cell and the ECM and initiate mechanically stimulated signaling events. We developed a stretching apparatus in which cells grown on fibronectin-coated elastic substrates can be stretched and imaged live to study how FAs dynamically respond to ECM deformation. Human bone osteosarcoma epithelial cell line U2OS was transfected with GFP-paxillin as an FA marker and subjected to sustained uniaxial stretching. Two responses at different timescales were observed: rapid FA growth within seconds after stretching, and delayed FA disassembly and loss of cell polarity that occurred over tens of minutes. Rapid FA growth occurred in all cells; however, delayed responses to stretch occurred in an orientation-specific manner, specifically in cells with their long axes perpendicular to the stretching direction, but not in cells with their long axes parallel to stretch. Pharmacological treatments demonstrated that FA kinase (FAK) promotes but Src inhibits rapid FA growth, whereas FAK, Src, and calpain 2 all contribute to delayed FA disassembly and loss of polarity in cells perpendicular to stretching. Immunostaining for phospho-FAK after stretching revealed that FAK activation was maximal at 5 s after stretching, specifically in FAs oriented perpendicular to stretch. We hypothesize that orientation-specific activation of strain/stress-sensitive proteins in FAs upstream to FAK and Src promote orientation-specific responses in FA growth and disassembly that mediate polarity rearrangement in response to sustained stretch.

publication date

  • June 25, 2013