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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2008 Jul;295(1):C268-78. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00516.2007. Epub 2008 May 21.

Extracellular matrix-specific focal adhesions in vascular smooth muscle produce mechanically active adhesion sites.

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Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.


Integrin-mediated mechanotransduction in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) plays an important role in the physiological control of tissue blood flow and vascular resistance. To test whether force applied to specific extracellular matrix (ECM)-integrin interactions could induce myogenic-like mechanical activity at focal adhesion sites, we used atomic force microscopy (AFM) to apply controlled forces to specific ECM adhesion sites on arteriolar VSMCs. The tip of AFM probes were fused with a borosilicate bead (2 ~ 5 microm) coated with fibronectin (FN), collagen type I (CNI), laminin (LN), or vitronectin (VN). ECM-coated beads induced clustering of alpha(5)- and beta(3)-integrins and actin filaments at sites of bead-cell contact indicative of focal adhesion formation. Step increases of an upward (z-axis) pulling force (800 ~ 1,600 pN) applied to the bead-cell contact site for FN-specific focal adhesions induced a myogenic-like, force-generating response from the VSMC, resulting in a counteracting downward pull by the cell. This micromechanical event was blocked by cytochalasin D but was enhanced by jasplakinolide. Function-blocking antibodies to alpha(5)beta(1)- and alpha(v)beta(3)-integrins also blocked the micromechanical cell event in a concentration-dependent manner. Similar pulling experiments with CNI, VN, or LN failed to induce myogenic-like micromechanical events. Collectively, these results demonstrate that mechanical force applied to integrin-FN adhesion sites induces an actin-dependent, myogenic-like, micromechanical event. Focal adhesions formed by different ECM proteins exhibit different mechanical characteristics, and FN appears of particular relevance in its ability to strongly attach to VSMCs and to induce myogenic-like, force-generating reactions from sites of focal adhesion in response to externally applied forces.

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