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Biophys J. 2015 Jul 7;109(1):57-65. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2015.06.003.

The cytoskeleton regulates cell attachment strength.

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Department of Bioengineering, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.
Department of Bioengineering, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California; Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, La Jolla, California. Electronic address:


Quantitative information about adhesion strength is a fundamental part of our understanding of cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions. Adhesion assays should measure integrin-ECM bond strength, but reports now suggest that cell components remain behind after exposure to acute force for radial shear assays in the presence of divalent cations that increase integrin-ECM affinity. Here, we show that focal adhesion proteins FAK, paxillin, and vinculin but not the cytoskeletal protein actin remain behind after shear-induced detachment of HT1080 fibrosarcoma cells. Cytoskeletal stabilization increased attachment strength by eightfold, whereas cross-linking integrins to the substrate only caused a 1.5-fold increase. Reducing temperature-only during shear application-also increased attachment strength eightfold, with detachment again occurring between focal adhesion proteins and actin. Detachment at the focal adhesion-cytoskeleton interface was also observed in mouse and human fibroblasts and was ligand-independent, highlighting the ubiquity of this mode of detachment in the presence of divalent cations. These data show that the cytoskeleton and its dynamic coupling to focal adhesions are critically important for cell adhesion in niche with divalent cations.

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