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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
hemodynamics; atherosclerosis; fibronectin
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.
Shear stress; extracellular matrix; protein kinase A; p21 activated kinase; NF-κB
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.
Anchorage-dependence of cell growth is a key metastasis-suppression mechanism that is mediated by effects of integrins on growth signaling pathways . 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
LKB1 kinase is a tumor suppressor that is causally linked to Peutz-Jeghers (PJS) syndrome . 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  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 . 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.
Cell migration involves a multitude of signals that converge on cytoskeletal reorganization, essential for development, immune responses, and tissue repair. Here, we show that the microtubule-associated Ste20 kinase SLK, required for cell migration, interacts with the LIM domain binding transcriptional cofactor proteins Ldb1/CLIM2 and Ldb2/CLIM1/NLI. We demonstrate that Ldb1 and 2 bind directly to the SLK carboxy-terminal AT1-46 homology domain in vitro and in vivo. We find that Ldb1 and -2 colocalize with SLK in migrating cells and that both knockdown and overexpression of either factor results in increased motility. Supporting this, knockdown of Ldb1 increases focal adhesion turnover and enhances migration in fibroblasts. We propose that Ldb1/2 function to maintain SLK in an inactive state before its activation. These findings highlight a novel function for Ldb1 and -2 and expand their role to include the control of cell migration.
Atherosclerosis begins as local inflammation of artery walls at sites of disturbed flow. The c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) is thought to be one of the major regulators of flow-dependent inflammatory gene expression in endothelial cells in atherosclerosis. We now show that JNK activation by both onset of laminar flow and long-term oscillatory flow is matrix-specific, with enhanced activation on fibronectin compared to basement membrane protein or collagen. Flow-induced JNK activation on fibronectin requires new integrin ligation, and requires both the MAP kinase kinase MKK4 and p21-activated kinase (PAK). In vivo, JNK activation at sites of early atherogenesis correlates with the deposition of fibronectin. Inhibiting PAK reduces JNK activation in atheroprone regions of the vasculature in vivo. These results identify JNK as a matrix-specific, flow-activated inflammatory event. Together with other studies, these data elucidate a network of matrix-specific pathways that determine inflammatory events in response to fluid shear stress.
shear stress; atherosclerosis; JNK
Rac activation by integrins is essential for cell spreading, migration, growth and survival. Based mainly on over-expression of dominant negative mutants, RhoG was proposed to mediate integrin-dependent Rac activation upstream of ELMO and Dock 180. RhoG knockout mice, however, display no significant developmental or functional abnormalities. To clarify the role of RhoG in integrin-mediated signaling, we developed a RhoG-specific antibody, which, together with shRNA mediated knockdown, allowed analysis of the endogenous protein. Despite dramatic effects of dominant negative constructs, nearly complete RhoG depletion did not substantially inhibit cell adhesion, spreading, migration or Rac activation. Additionally, RhoG was not detectably activated by adhesion to fibronectin. Using Rac1−/− cells, we found that constitutively active RhoG induced membrane ruffling via both Rac-dependent and –independent pathways. Additionally, endogenous RhoG was important for Rac-independent cell migration. However, RhoG did not significantly contribute to cell spreading even in these cells. These data therefore clarify the role of RhoG in integrin signaling and cell motility.
Spreading; migration; fibronectin; Elmo; Dock 180
Integrins and cadherins are tri-functional: they bind ligands on other cells or in the extracellular matrix, connect to the cytoskeleton inside the cell, and regulate intracellular signaling pathways. These adhesion receptors therefore transmit mechanical stresses and are well positioned to mediate mechanotransduction. Studies of cultured cells have shown that both integrin- and cadherin-mediated adhesion are intrinsically mechanosensitive. Strengthening of adhesions in response to mechanical stimulation may be a central mechanism for mechanotransduction. Studies of developing organisms suggest that these mechanisms contribute to tissue level responses to tension and compression, thereby linking morphogenetic movements to cell fate decisions.
RhoGDI2 has been identified as a metastasis suppressor in bladder and possibly other cancers (1). This protein is a member of a family of proteins that maintain Rho GTPases in the cytoplasm and inhibit their activation and function. To understand the mechanism of metastasis suppression, we compared effects of RhoGDI1 and 2. Despite showing much stronger inhibition of metastasis, RhoGDI2 is a weak inhibitor of Rho GTPase membrane targeting and function. However, point mutants that increase or decrease the affinity of RhoGDI2 for GTPases abolished its ability to inhibit metastasis. Surprisingly, metastasis suppression correlates with increased rather than decreased Rac1 activity. These data show that RhoGDI2 metastasis inhibition works through Rho GTPases but via a mechanism distinct from inhibition of membrane association.
bladder cancer; Rho GTPase; metastasis; RhoGDI; Rac
Rho family small GTPases are critical regulators of multiple cellular functions. Dbl homology domain-containing proteins are the classical guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) responsible for activation of Rho proteins. Zizimin1 is a Cdc42-specific GEF that belongs to a second family of mammalian Rho-GEFs, CZH proteins, which possess a novel type of GEF Domain. CZH proteins can be divided into a subfamily related to DOCK180 and a subfamily related to zizimin1. The two groups share two conserved regions named the CZH1 (or DHR1) domain and the CZH2 (DHR2 or DOCKER) domains, the latter exhibiting GEF activity. We now show that limited proteolysis of zizimin1 suggests the existence of structural domains that do not correspond to those identified on the basis of homologies. We demonstrate that the N-terminal half binds to the GEF domain through three distinct areas, including the CZH1, to inhibit the interaction with Cdc42. The N-terminal Pleckstrin homology (PH) domain binds phosphoinositides and mediates zizimin1 membrane targeting. These data define two novel functions for the N-terminal region of zizimin1.
Dock9; zizimin; structure; limited proteolysis
Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that originates at regions of arteries exposed to disturbances in fluid flow and results in progressive plaque formation in those areas. Recent work on cellular responses to flow has identified potential mechanosensors and pathways that may influence disease progression. These results lead us to hypothesize that the same mechanisms that mediate adaptive responses in the vasculature become maladaptive at sites of disturbed flow. Subsequent changes in gene expression and matrix remodeling help to entrain these inflammatory pathways. These events synergize with systemic risk factors such as hyperlipidemia, smoking and diabetes, leading to disease progression.
fluid shear stress; endothelial; smooth muscle; inflammation; disturbed flow; laminar flow
Forces associated with blood flow are major determinants of vascular morphogenesis and physiology. Blood flow is crucial for blood vessel development during embryogenesis and for regulation of vessel diameter in adult life. It is also a key factor in atherosclerosis, which, despite the systemic nature of major risk factors, occurs mainly at regions of arteries that experience disturbances in fluid flow. Recent data have highlighted the potential endothelial mechanotransducers that mediate responses to flow, the effects of atheroprotective versus atherogenic flow, and the mechanisms that contribute to progression of the disease over time and how systemic factors interact with flow patterns to cause atherosclerosis.
Integrin-mediated adhesion regulates Rac1 membrane binding sites within lipid rafts. Detachment of cells from the substratum triggers clearance of rafts from the plasma membrane through caveolin-dependent internalization. The small GTPase Arf6 and microtubules also regulate Rac-dependent cell spreading and migration but the mechanisms are poorly understood. We now show that endocytosis of rafts after detachment requires F-actin, followed by microtubule-dependent trafficking to recycling endosomes (RE). When cells are replated on fibronectin, rafts exit from RE in an Arf6-dependent manner and return to the plasma membrane along microtubules. Both of these steps are required for plasma membrane targeting and activation of Rac1. These data therefore define a novel membrane raft trafficking pathway that is crucial for anchorage-dependent signaling.
Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) is an essential nonreceptor tyrosine kinase regulating cell migration, adhesive signaling, and mechanosensing. Using FAK-null cells expressing FAK under an inducible promoter, we demonstrate that FAK regulates the time-dependent generation of adhesive forces. During the early stages of adhesion, FAK expression in FAK-null cells enhances integrin activation to promote integrin binding and, hence, the adhesion strengthening rate. Importantly, FAK expression regulated integrin activation, and talin was required for the FAK-dependent effects. A role for FAK in integrin activation was confirmed in human fibroblasts with knocked-down FAK expression. The FAK autophosphorylation Y397 site was required for the enhancements in adhesion strengthening and integrin-binding responses. This work demonstrates a novel role for FAK in integrin activation and the time-dependent generation of cell–ECM forces.
Disturbed blood flow promotes atherosclerosis mainly by inducing inflammatory gene expression in endothelial cells. Flow stimulates the proinflammatory transcription factor NF-κB through integrin- and Rac-dependent production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Previous work demonstrated that NF-κB activation by flow is matrix-specific, occurring in cells on fibronectin but not collagen. Activation of p21-activated kinase (PAK) followed the same matrix-dependent pattern. We now show that inhibiting PAK in cells on fibronectin blocked NF-κB activation by both laminar and oscillatory flow in vitro and at sites of disturbed flow in vivo. Constitutively active PAK rescued flow-induced NF-κB activation in cells on collagen. Surprisingly, PAK was not required for flow-induced ROS production. Instead, PAK modulated the ability of H2O2 to activate the NF-κB pathway. These data demonstrate that PAK controls NF-κB activation by modulating cells’ sensitivity to ROS.