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Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2012 Feb;24(1):134-40. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2011 Dec 22.

The structure of cell-matrix adhesions: the new frontier.

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  • 1Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Program, Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, United States.


Adhesions between the cell and the extracellular matrix (ECM) are mechanosensitive multi-protein assemblies that transmit force across the cell membrane and regulate biochemical signals in response to the chemical and mechanical environment. These combined functions in force transduction, signaling and mechanosensing contribute to cellular phenotypes that span development, homeostasis and disease. These adhesions form, mature and disassemble in response to actin organization and physical forces that originate from endogenous myosin activity or external forces by the extracellular matrix. Despite advances in our understanding of the protein composition, interactions and regulation, our understanding of matrix adhesion structure and organization, how forces affect this organization, and how these changes dictate specific signaling events is limited. Insights across multiple structural levels are acutely needed to elucidate adhesion structure and ultimately the molecular basis of signaling and mechanotransduction. Here we describe the challenges and recent advances and prospects for unraveling the structure of cell-matrix adhesions and their response to force.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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