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1.  Src and Caveolin-1 reciprocally regulate metastasis via a common downstream signaling pathway in bladder cancer 
Cancer research  2010;71(3):832-841.
In bladder cancer, increased Caveolin-1 (Cav-1) expression and decreased Src expression and kinase activity correlate with tumor aggressiveness. Here, we investigate the clinical and functional significance if any, of this reciprocal expression in bladder cancer metastasis. We evaluated the ability of tumor Cav-1 and Src RNA and protein expression to predict outcome following cystectomy in 257 patients enrolled in two independent clinical studies. In both, high Cav-1 and low Src levels were associated with metastasis development. We overexpressed or depleted Cav-1 and Src protein levels in UMUC-3 and, RT4 human bladder cancer cells and evaluated the effect of this on actin stress fibers, migration using transwells and lung metastasis following tail vein inoculation. Cav-1 depletion or expression of active Src in metastatic UMUC-3 cells decreases actin stress fibers, cell migration and metastasis, while, Cav-1 overexpression or Src depletion increased the migration of non-metastatic RT4 cells. Biochemical studies indicated Cav-1 mediates these effects via its phosphorylated form (pY14), whereas Src effects are mediated through phosphorylation of p190RhoGAP and these pathways converge to reduce activity of RhoA, RhoC and Rho effector ROCK1. Treatment with a ROCK inhibitor reduced UMUC-3 lung metastasis in vivo, phenocopying the effect of Cav-1 depletion or expression of active Src. Src suppresses while Cav-1 promotes metastasis of bladder cancer through a pharmacologically tractable common downstream signaling pathway. Clinical evaluation of personalized therapy to suppress metastasis development based on Cav-1 and Src profiles appears warranted.
PMCID: PMC4306590  PMID: 21148751
Caveolin-1; Src; Rho A; Rho C; metastasis; bladder neoplasms
2.  Integrins In Mechanotransduction 
Current opinion in cell biology  2013;25(5):613-618.
Forces acting on cells govern many important regulatory events during development, normal physiology, and disease processes. Integrin-mediated adhesions, which transmit forces between the extracellular matrix and the actin cytoskeleton, play a central role in transducing effects of forces to regulate cell functions. Recent work has led to major insights into the molecular mechanisms by which these adhesions respond to forces to control cellular signaling pathways. We briefly summarize effects of forces on organs, tissues, and cells; and then discuss recent advances toward understanding molecular mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3757118  PMID: 23797029
3.  Endothelial cell sensing of flow direction 
Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology  2013;33(9):10.1161/ATVBAHA.113.301826.
Atherosclerosis-prone regions of arteries are characterized by complex flow patterns where the magnitude of shear stress is low and direction rapidly changes, termed disturbed flow. How endothelial cells sense flow direction and how it impacts inflammatory effects of disturbed flow are unknown. We therefore aimed to understand how endothelial cells respond to changes in flow direction.
Approach and Results
Utilizing a recently developed flow system capable of changing flow direction to any angle, we show that responses of aligned endothelial cells are determined by flow direction relative to their morphological and cytoskeletal axis. Activation of the atheroprotective eNOS pathway is maximal at 180° and undetectable at 90°, while activation of pro-inflammatory NF-κB is maximal at 90° and undetectable at 180°. Similar effects were observed in randomly oriented cells in naïve monolayers subjected to onset of shear. Cells aligned on micro-patterned substrates subjected to oscillatory flow were also examined. In this system, parallel flow preferentially activated eNOS and production of nitric oxide, whereas perpendicular flow preferentially activated reactive oxygen production and NF-κB.
These data show that the angle between flow and the cell axis, defined by their shape and cytoskeleton, determines endothelial cell responses. The data also strongly suggest that the inability of cells to align in low and oscillatory flow is a key determinant of the resultant inflammatory activation.
PMCID: PMC3812824  PMID: 23814115
Flow direction; flow shear stress; mechanotransduction; hemodynamics; atherosclerosis
4.  Change of Direction in the Biomechanics of Atherosclerosis 
The non-uniform distribution of atherosclerosis within the arterial system has been attributed to pro-atherogenic influences of low, oscillatory haemodynamic wall shear stress (WSS) on endothelial cells (EC). This theory is challenged by the changes in lesion location that occur with age in human and rabbit aortas. Furthermore, a number of point-wise comparisons of lesion prevalence and WSS have failed to support it. Here we investigate the hypothesis that multidirectional flow—characterized as the average magnitude of WSS components acting transversely to the mean vector (transWSS)—plays a key role. Maps of lesion prevalence around aortic branch ostia in immature and mature rabbits were compared with equivalent maps of time average WSS, the OSI (an index characterizing oscillatory flow) and transWSS, obtained from computational simulations; Spearman’s rank correlation coefficients were calculated for aggregated data and 95% confidence intervals were obtained by bootstrapping methods. Lesion prevalence correlated positively, strongly and significantly with transWSS at both ages. Correlations of lesion prevalence with the other shear metrics were not significant or were significantly lower than those obtained for transWSS. No correlation supported the low, oscillatory WSS theory. The data are consistent with the view that multidirectional near-wall flow is highly pro-atherogenic. Effects of multidirectional flow on EC, and methods for investigating them, are reviewed. The finding that oscillatory flow has pro-inflammatory effects when acting perpendicularly to the long axis of EC but anti-inflammatory effects when acting parallel to it may explain the stronger correlation of lesion prevalence with transWSS than with the OSI.
PMCID: PMC4286626  PMID: 25138165
Hemodynamics; Wall shear stress; Atherosclerosis; Transverse wall shear stress; Oscillatory shear index; NF-κB; eNOS
5.  Matrix Metalloproteinase Inhibitors Based on the 3-Mercaptopyrrolidine Core 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;56(11):4357-4373.
New series of pyrrolidine mercaptosulfide, 2-mercaptocyclopentane arylsulfonamide, and 3-mercapto-4-arylsulfonamido pyrrolidine matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors (MMPIs) were designed, synthesized, and evaluated. Exhibiting unique properties over other MMPIs (e.g., hydroxamates), these newly reported compounds are capable of modulating activities of several MMPs in the low nanomolar range, including MMP-2 (~2 to 50 nM), MMP-13 (~2 to 50 nM), and MMP-14 (~4 to 60 nM). Additionally these compounds are selective to intermediate- and deep-pocket MMPs but not shallow-pocketed MMPs (e.g., MMP-1, ~850 to >50,000 nM; MMP-7, ~4,000 to >25,000 nM). Our previous work with the mercaptosulfide functionality attached to both cyclopentane and pyrrolidine frameworks demonstrated that the cis-(3S,4R)-stereochemistry was optimal for all of the MMPs tested. However, in our newest compounds an interesting shift of preference to the trans-form of the mercaptosulfonamides was observed with increased oxidative stability and biological compatibility. We also report several kinetic and biological characteristics showing that these compounds may be used to probe the mechanistic activities of MMPs in disease.
PMCID: PMC3715384  PMID: 23631440
6.  Profilin phosphorylation as a VEGFR effector in angiogenesis 
Nature cell biology  2012;14(10):985-987.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) signalling induces embryonic vascular development and angiogenesis in adult tissues. Direct phosphorylation of the actin-binding protein profilin by VEGF receptors is now shown to increase its affinity for actin, and to be essential for adult but not embryonic arteriogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4047563  PMID: 23033049
7.  Fluid shear stress on endothelial cells modulates mechanical tension across VE-cadherin and PECAM-1 
Current biology : CB  2013;23(11):1024-1030.
Fluid shear stress (FSS) from blood flow acting on the endothelium critically regulates vascular morphogenesis, blood pressure and atherosclerosis [1]. FSS applied to endothelial cells (EC) triggers signaling events including opening of ion channels, activation of signaling pathways and changes in gene expression. Elucidating how ECs sense flow important for understanding both normal vascular function and disease. EC responses to FSS are mediated in part by a junctional mechanosensory complex consisting of VE-cadherin, PECAM-1, and VEGFR2 [2]. Previous work suggested that flow increases force on PECAM-1, which initiates signaling [2–4]. Deletion of PECAM-1 blocks responses to flow in vitro and flow-dependent vascular remodeling in vivo [2, 5]. To understand this process, we developed and validated FRET-based tension sensors for VE-cadherin and PECAM-1 using our previously developed FRET tension biosensor [6]. FRET measurements showed that in static culture, VE-cadherin in cell-cell junctions bears significant myosin-dependent tension, whereas there was no detectable tension on VE-cadherin outside of junctions. Onset of shear stress triggered a rapid (<30 sec) decrease in tension across VE-cadherin, which paralleled a decrease in total cell-cell junctional tension. Flow triggered a simultaneous increase in tension across junctional PECAM-1, while non-junctional PECAM-1 was unaffected. Tension on PECAM-1 was mediated by flow-stimulated association with vimentin. These data confirm the prediction that shear increases force on PECAM-1. However, they also argue against the current model of passive transfer of force through the cytoskeleton to the junctions [7], showing instead that flow triggers cytoskeletal remodeling, which alters forces across the junctional receptors.
PMCID: PMC3676707  PMID: 23684974
8.  Endothelial NFκB -Dependent Regulation of Arteriogenesis and Branching 
Circulation  2012;126(22):2589-2600.
Arteriogenesis and collateral formation are complex processes requiring integration of multiple inputs to coordinate vessel branching, growth, maturation and network size. Factors regulating these processes have not been determined.
Methods and Results
We used a dominant-negative IκBαSR construct under control of an endothelial-specific inducible promoter to selectively suppress endothelial NFκB activation during development or in the adult vasculature or in vitro. Inhibition of NFκB activation resulted in formation of an excessively branched arterial network that was composed of immature vessels and provided poor distal tissue perfusion. Molecular analysis demonstrated reduced adhesion molecules expression leading to decreased monocyte influx, reduced HIF-1α levels and a marked decrease in Dll4 expression with a consequent decrease in Notch signaling. The latter was the principal cause of increased vascular branching, as treatment with Jagged-1 peptide reduced the size of arterial network to baseline levels.
These findings identify NFκB as a key regulator of adult and developmental arteriogenesis and collateral formation. NFkB achieves this by regulating HIF1α-dependent expression of VEGF-A and PDGF-BB that are necessary for development and maturation of the arterial collateral network and by regulating Dll4 expression that in turn determines the network’s size and complexity.
PMCID: PMC3514045  PMID: 23091063
arteriogenesis; NFκB; HIF; Dll4
9.  Neuropilin-1 stimulates tumor growth by increasing fibronectin fibril assembly in the tumor microenvironment 
Cancer research  2012;72(16):4047-4059.
The tumor microenvironment, including stromal myofibroblasts and associated matrix proteins, regulates cancer cell invasion and proliferation. Here we report that neuropilin-1 (NRP-1) orchestrates communications between myofibroblasts and soluble fibronectin (FN) that promote α5β1 integrin-dependent FN fibril assembly, matrix stiffness, and tumor growth. Tumor growth and FN fibril assembly was reduced by genetic depletion or antibody neutralization of NRP-1 from stromal myofibroblasts in vivo. Mechanistically, the increase in FN fibril assembly required glycosylation of serine 612 of the extracellular domain of NRP-1, an intact intracellular NRP-1 SEA domain, and intracellular associations between NRP-1, the scaffold protein GIPC, and the nonreceptor tyrosine kinase c-Abl, that augmented α5β1 FN fibril assembly activity. Analysis of human cancer specimens established an association between tumoral NRP-1 levels and clinical outcome. Our findings indicate that NRP-1 activates the tumor microenvironment, thereby promoting tumor growth. These results not only identify new molecular mechanisms of FN fibril assembly but also have important implications for therapeutic targeting of the myofibroblast in the tumor microenvironment.
PMCID: PMC3421041  PMID: 22738912
Fibronectin; Integrin; Neuropilin; Matrix; Myofibroblast
10.  N-cadherin regulates spatially polarized signals through distinct p120ctn and β-catenin-dependent signaling pathways 
Nature communications  2013;4:1589.
The spatial distribution of molecular signals within cells is crucial for cellular functions. Here, as a model to study the polarized spatial distribution of molecular activities, we used cells on micro-patterned strips of fibronectin with one end free and the other end contacting a neighboring cell. Phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and the small GTPase Rac display greater activity at the free end, whereas myosin II light chain (MLC) and actin filaments are enriched near the intercellular junction. PI3K and Rac polarization depend specifically on the N-cadherin-p120ctn complex, whereas MLC and actin filament polarization depend on the N-cadherin-β-catenin complex. Integrins promote high PI3K/Rac activities at the free end, and the N-cadherin–p120ctn complex excludes integrin α5 at the junctions to suppress local PI3K and Rac activity. We hence conclude that N-cadherin couples with distinct effectors to polarize PI3K/Rac and MLC/actin filaments in migrating cells.
PMCID: PMC3602931  PMID: 23481397
11.  A novel in vitro flow system for changing flow direction on endothelial cells 
Journal of Biomechanics  2012;45(7):1212-1218.
Atherosclerotic plaques localize to regions of flow disturbance, i.e. bifurcations, branch points and regions of high curvature. Shear stress in these regions can be multi-directional due to complex flow patterns such as time-varying vortices. However, commonly used in vitro flow models are incapable of changing flow orientation to any direction other than the reverse. We have developed a novel in vitro flow system to enable changes in flow direction to any angle. When cells were pre-aligned in laminar shear, then rotated 90°, cells re-aligned over 24 hours. Re-alignment involved actin remodeling by gradual rotation of actin stress fibers. This device will enable analysis of how endothelial cells sense changes in flow direction as occur in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3327813  PMID: 22386042
Parallel plate device; Shear stress; Endothelial cells; Mechanotransduction; Cell alignment
12.  Integrins and Extracellular Matrix in Mechanotransduction 
Integrins bind extracellular matrix fibrils and associate with intracellular actin filaments through a variety of cytoskeletal linker proteins to mechanically connect intracellular and extracellular structures. Each component of the linkage from the cytoskeleton through the integrin-mediated adhesions to the extracellular matrix therefore transmits forces that may derive from both intracellular, myosin-generated contractile forces and forces from outside the cell. These forces activate a wide range of signaling pathways and genetic programs to control cell survival, fate, and behavior. Additionally, cells sense the physical properties of their surrounding environment through forces exerted on integrin-mediated adhesions. This article first summarizes current knowledge about regulation of cell function by mechanical forces acting through integrin-mediated adhesions and then discusses models for mechanotransduction and sensing of environmental forces.
A clutch mechanism involving proteins such as talin and vinculin may allow force transmitted through cell adhesions to modulate intracellular signaling pathways by controlling the timing of protein-protein interactions.
PMCID: PMC2982167  PMID: 21084386
13.  Lessons from the endothelial junctional mechanosensory complex 
Mechanotransduction plays a key role in both normal physiology and in diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis and hypertension. Nowhere is this more evident than in the vascular system, where fluid shear stress from blood flow plays a critical role in shaping the blood vessels and in determining their function and dysfunction. Responses to flow are mediated in part by a complex of proteins comprised of PECAM-1, VE-cadherin and VEGFR2 at endothelial cell-cell junctions; all proteins that clearly have other, non-mechanical functions. We review recent progress toward understanding the functions and mechanisms of mechanotransduction by this complex and suggest some principles that may apply more broadly.
PMCID: PMC3251317  PMID: 22238515
14.  Effects of integrin-mediated cell adhesion on plasma membrane lipid raft components and signaling 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2011;22(18):3456-3464.
Loss of integrin-mediated cell adhesion is known to induce internalization of lipid rafts, which alters of the plasma membrane's physical and signaling properties. Analysis of multiple proteins now shows a wide range of behaviors in which internalization and exit from the ordered to disordered domains are regulated separately.
Anchorage dependence of cell growth, which is mediated by multiple integrin-regulated signaling pathways, is a key defense against cancer metastasis. Detachment of cells from the extracellular matrix triggers caveolin-1–dependent internalization of lipid raft components, which mediates suppression of Rho GTPases, Erk, and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase in suspended cells. Elevation of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) following cell detachment is also implicated in termination of growth signaling in suspended cells. Studies of integrins and lipid rafts, however, examined mainly ganglioside GM1 and glycosylphosphatidylinositol-linked proteins as lipid raft markers. In this study, we examine a wider range of lipid raft components. Whereas many raft components internalized with GM1 following cell detachment, flotillin2, connexin43, and Gαs remained in the plasma membrane. Loss of cell adhesion caused movement of many components from the lipid raft to the nonraft fractions on sucrose gradients, although flotillin2, connexin43, and H-Ras were resistant. Gαs lost its raft association, concomitant with cAMP production. Modification of the lipid tail of Gαs to increase its association with ordered domains blocked the detachment-induced increase in cAMP. These data define the effects of that integrin-mediated adhesion on the localization and behavior of a variety of lipid raft components and reveal the mechanism of the previously described elevation of cAMP after cell detachment.
PMCID: PMC3172269  PMID: 21795400
15.  JNK2 Promotes Endothelial Cell Alignment under Flow 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e24338.
Endothelial cells in straight, unbranched segments of arteries elongate and align in the direction of flow, a feature which is highly correlated with reduced atherosclerosis in these regions. The mitogen-activated protein kinase c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) is activated by flow and is linked to inflammatory gene expression and apoptosis. We previously showed that JNK activation by flow is mediated by integrins and is observed in cells plated on fibronectin but not on collagen or basement membrane proteins. We now show thatJNK2 activation in response to laminar shear stress is biphasic, with an early peak and a later peak. Activated JNK localizes to focal adhesions at the ends of actin stress fibers, correlates with integrin activation and requires integrin binding to the extracellular matrix. Reducing JNK2 activation by siRNA inhibits alignment in response to shear stress. Cells on collagen, where JNK activity is low, align slowly. These data show that an inflammatory pathway facilitates adaptation to laminar flow, thereby revealing an unexpected connection between adaptation and inflammatory pathways.
PMCID: PMC3164210  PMID: 21909388
16.  Atheroprone Hemodynamics Regulate Fibronectin Deposition to Create Positive Feedback that Sustains Endothelial Inflammation 
Circulation research  2010;106(11):1703-1711.
The extracellular matrix protein, fibronectin (FN), is focally deposited in regions of atherosclerosis where it contributes to inflammatory signaling.
To elucidate the mechanism by which FN deposition is regulated by local shear stress patterns, its dependence on PECAM-1 mechanotransduction, and the role this pathway plays in sustaining an atheroprone/pro-inflammatory phenotype.
Methods and Results
Human endothelial cells were exposed in vitro to atheroprone or atheroprotective shear stress patterns derived from human carotid arteries. Onset of atheroprotective flow induced a transient increase in FN deposition, whereas atheroprone flow caused a steady increase in FN expression and integrin activation over time, leading to a significant and sustained increase in FN deposition relative to atheroprotective conditions. Comparing FN staining in ApoE−/− and ApoE−/−PECAM−/− mice showed that PECAM-1 was essential for FN accumulation in atheroprone regions of the aortic arch. In vitro, siRNA against PECAM-1 blocked the induction of FN and the activation of NF-κB by atheroprone flow, which was rescued by the addition of exogenous FN. Additionally, blocking NF-κB activation attenuated the flow-induced FN expression. siRNA against FN significantly reduced NF-κB activity, which was rescued by the addition of exogenous FN.
These results indicate that FN gene expression and assembly into matrix fibrils is induced by atheroprone fluid shear stress. This effect is mediated at least in part by the transcription factor NF-κB. Additionally, because FN promotes activation of NF-κB, atheroprone shear stress creates a positive feedback to maintain inflammation.
PMCID: PMC2891748  PMID: 20378855
hemodynamics; atherosclerosis; fibronectin
17.  Matrix-specific protein kinase A signaling regulates p21 activated kinase activation by flow in endothelial cells 
Circulation research  2010;106(8):1394-1403.
Atherosclerosis is initiated by blood flow patterns that activate inflammatory pathways in endothelial cells. Activation of inflammatory signaling by fluid shear stress is highly dependent on the composition of the subendothelial extracellular matrix. The basement membrane proteins laminin and collagen found in normal vessels suppress flow-induced p21 activated kinase (PAK) and NF-κB activation. By contrast, the provisional matrix proteins fibronectin and fibrinogen found in wounded or inflamed vessels support flow-induced PAK and NF-κB activation. PAK mediates both flow-induced permeability and matrix-specific activation of NF-κB.
To elucidate the mechanisms regulating matrix-specific PAK activation.
Methods and Results
We now show that matrix composition does not affect the upstream pathway by which flow activates PAK (integrin activation, Rac). Instead basement membrane proteins enhance flow-induced protein kinase A (PKA) activation, which suppresses PAK. Inhibiting PKA restored flow-induced PAK and NF-κB activation in cells on basement membrane proteins, whereas stimulating PKA inhibited flow-induced activation of inflammatory signaling in cells on fibronectin. PKA suppressed inflammatory signaling through PAK inhibition. Activating PKA by injection of the PGI2 analog iloprost reduced PAK activation and inflammatory gene expression at sites of disturbed flow in vivo, whereas inhibiting PKA by PKI injection enhanced PAK activation and inflammatory gene expression. Inhibiting PAK prevented the enhancement of inflammatory gene expression by PKI.
Basement membrane proteins inhibit inflammatory signaling in endothelial cells via PKA-dependent inhibition of PAK.
PMCID: PMC2862370  PMID: 20224042
Shear stress; extracellular matrix; protein kinase A; p21 activated kinase; NF-κB
18.  Myosin II directly binds and inhibits Dbl family guanine nucleotide exchange factors: a possible link to Rho family GTPases 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2010;190(4):663-674.
The activity of Rho GTPases in migrating cells is regulated by binding of myosin II to GEFs.
Cell migration requires the coordinated spatiotemporal regulation of actomyosin contraction and cell protrusion/adhesion. Nonmuscle myosin II (MII) controls Rac1 and Cdc42 activation, and cell protrusion and focal complex formation in migrating cells. However, these mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, we show that MII interacts specifically with multiple Dbl family guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs). Binding is mediated by the conserved tandem Dbl homology–pleckstrin homology module, the catalytic site of these GEFs, with dissociation constants of ∼0.3 µM. Binding to the GEFs required assembly of the MII into filaments and actin-stimulated ATPase activity. Binding of MII suppressed GEF activity. Accordingly, inhibition of MII ATPase activity caused release of GEFs and activation of Rho GTPases. Depletion of βPIX GEF in migrating NIH3T3 fibroblasts suppressed lamellipodial protrusions and focal complex formation induced by MII inhibition. The results elucidate a functional link between MII and Rac1/Cdc42 GTPases, which may regulate protrusion/adhesion dynamics in migrating cells.
PMCID: PMC2928003  PMID: 20713598
19.  RalA-Exocyst Complex Regulates Integrin-Dependent Membrane Raft Exocytosis and Growth Signaling 
Current biology : CB  2009;20(1):75.
Anchorage-dependence of cell growth is a key metastasis-suppression mechanism that is mediated by effects of integrins on growth signaling pathways [1]. The small GTPase RalA is activated in metastatic cancers through multiple mechanisms and specifically induces anchorage independence [2–4]. Loss of integrin-mediated adhesion triggers caveolin-dependent internalization of cholesterol- and sphingolipid- rich lipid raft microdomains to the recycling endosomes; these domains serve as platforms for many signaling pathways and their clearance from the plasma membrane (PM) after cell detachment suppresses growth signaling [5, 6]. Conversely, re-adhesion triggers their return to the PM and restores growth signaling. Activation of Arf6 by integrins mediates exit of raft markers from the RE but is not sufficient for return to the PM. We now show that RalA but not RalB mediates integrin-dependent membrane raft exocytosis through the exocyst complex. Constitutively active RalA restores membrane raft targeting to promote anchorage independent growth signaling. Ras-transformed pancreatic cancer cells also show RalA-dependent constitutive PM raft targeting. These results identify RalA as a key determinant of integrin-dependent membrane raft trafficking and regulation of growth signaling. They therefore define a mechanism by which RalA regulates anchorage dependence and provide a new link between integrin signaling and cancer.
PMCID: PMC2822103  PMID: 20005108
20.  Measuring mechanical tension across vinculin reveals regulation of focal adhesion dynamics 
Nature  2010;466(7303):263-266.
Mechanical forces are central to developmental, physiological and pathological processes1. However, limited understanding of force transmission within sub-cellular structures is a major obstacle to unravelling molecular mechanisms. Here we describe the development of a calibrated biosensor that measures forces across specific proteins in cells with pico-Newton (pN) sensitivity, as demonstrated by single molecule fluorescence force spectroscopy2. The method is applied to vinculin, a protein that connects integrins to actin filaments and whose recruitment to focal adhesions (FAs) is force-dependent3. We show that tension across vinculin in stable FAs is ~2.5 pN and that vinculin recruitment to FAs and force transmission across vinculin are regulated separately. Highest tension across vinculin is associated with adhesion assembly and enlargement. Conversely, vinculin is under low force in disassembling or sliding FAs at the trailing edge of migrating cells. Furthermore, vinculin is required for stabilizing adhesions under force. Together, these data reveal that FA stabilization under force requires both vinculin recruitment and force transmission, and that, surprisingly, these processes can be controlled independently.
PMCID: PMC2901888  PMID: 20613844
21.  Cell adhesion: integrating cytoskeletal dynamics and cellular tension 
Cell migration affects all morphogenetic processes and contributes to numerous diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. For most cells in most environments, movement begins with protrusion of the cell membrane followed by the formation of new adhesions at the cell front that link the actin cytoskeleton to the substratum, generation of traction forces that move the cell forwards and disassembly of adhesions at the cell rear. Adhesion formation and disassembly drive the migration cycle by activating Rho GTPases, which in turn regulate actin polymerization and myosin II activity, and therefore adhesion dynamics.
PMCID: PMC2992881  PMID: 20729930
22.  Remembrance of Dead Cells Past: Discovering That the Extracellular Matrix Is a Cell Survival Factor 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(4):499-500.
In 1992, Jere Meredith and I followed up on a serendipitous observation and showed that matrix deprivation can lead to apoptosis. Our article in Molecular Biology of the Cell, together with work form Steve Frisch's lab, helped establish the paradigm that integrin signals control cell survival in a variety of systems. It has been a pleasure to watch that work take on a life of its own as other investigators have explored its role in processes such as cavitation, regression of the mammary gland at the end of pregnancy, cancer metastasis, and tumor resistance to chemotherapy. Recently, we described an exception to the paradigm: In some tumors, reagents that activate integrin signaling enhance apoptosis in response to chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC2820415  PMID: 20150528
23.  Cadherin Adhesion, Tissue Tension and Non-Canonical Wnt Signaling Regulate Fibronectin Matrix Organization 
Developmental cell  2009;16(3):421-432.
In this study we demonstrate that PCP signaling regulates morphogenesis in Xenopus embryos in part, through the assembly of the fibronectin (FN) matrix. We outline a regulatory pathway that includes cadherin adhesion and signaling through Rac and Pak culminating in actin reorganization, myosin contractility and tissue tension, which in turn directs the correct spatiotemporal localization of FN into a fibrillar matrix. Increased mechanical tension promotes FN fibril assembly in the blastocoel roof (BCR) while reduced BCR tension inhibits matrix assembly. These data support a model for matrix assembly in tissues where cell-cell adhesions play an analogous role to the focal adhesions of cultured cells by transferring to integrins the tension required to direct FN fibril formation at cell surfaces.
PMCID: PMC2682918  PMID: 19289087
24.  Suppression of RhoG activity is mediated by a syndecan 4–synectin–RhoGDI1 complex and is reversed by PKCα in a Rac1 activation pathway 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2009;186(1):75-83.
Fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) is a major regulator of developmental, pathological, and therapeutic angiogenesis. Its activity is partially mediated by binding to syndecan 4 (S4), a proteoglycan receptor. Angiogenesis requires polarized activation of the small guanosine triphosphatase Rac1, which involves localized dissociation from RhoGDI1 and association with the plasma membrane. Previous work has shown that genetic deletion of S4 or its adapter, synectin, leads to depolarized Rac activation, decreased endothelial migration, and other physiological defects. In this study, we show that Rac1 activation downstream of S4 is mediated by the RhoG activation pathway. RhoG is maintained in an inactive state by RhoGDI1, which is found in a ternary complex with synectin and S4. Binding of S4 to synectin increases the latter's binding to RhoGDI1, which in turn enhances RhoGDI1's affinity for RhoG. S4 clustering activates PKCα, which phosphorylates RhoGDI1 at Ser96. This phosphorylation triggers release of RhoG, leading to polarized activation of Rac1. Thus, FGF2-induced Rac1 activation depends on the suppression of RhoG by a previously uncharacterized ternary S4–synectin–RhoGDI1 protein complex and activation via PKCα.
PMCID: PMC2712988  PMID: 19581409
25.  Regulation of LKB1/STRAD localization and function by E-cadherin 
Current biology : CB  2008;19(1):37-42.
LKB1 kinase is a tumor suppressor that is causally linked to Peutz-Jeghers (PJS) syndrome [1]. In complex with the pseudokinase STRAD and the scaffolding protein MO25, LKB1 phosphorylates and activates AMPK family kinases, which mediate many cellular processes [2, 3]. The prototypical family member AMPK regulates cell energy metabolism [4] and epithelial apico-basal polarity [5, 6]. This latter event is also dependent on E-cadherin-mediated adherens junctions (AJs) at lateral borders [7, 8]. Strikingly, overexpression of LKB1/STRAD can also trigger establishment of epithelial polarity in the absence of cell-cell or cell-matrix contacts [9]. However, the upstream factors that normally govern LKB1/STRAD function are unknown. Here, we show by immunostaining and fluorescence resonance energy transfer that active LKB1/STRAD kinase complex co-localizes with E-cadherin at AJs. LKB1/STRAD localization and AMPK phosphorylation require E-cadherin-dependent maturation of AJs. However, LKB1/STRAD complex kinase activity is E-cadherin-independent. These data suggest that in polarized epithelial cells, E-cadherin regulates AMPK phosphorylation by controlling the localization of the LKB1 complex. The LKB1 complex therefore appears to function downstream of E-cadherin in tumor suppression.
PMCID: PMC2773019  PMID: 19110428

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