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Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 16;7:42780. doi: 10.1038/srep42780.

Focal adhesion kinase activity is required for actomyosin contractility-based invasion of cells into dense 3D matrices.

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Institute of Experimental Physics I, Biological Physics Division, Faculty of Physics and Earth Science, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.
Department of Paediatric Kidney, Liver and Metabolic Diseases, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.


The focal adhesion kinase (FAK) regulates the dynamics of integrin-based cell adhesions important for motility. FAK's activity regulation is involved in stress-sensing and focal-adhesion turnover. The effect of FAK on 3D migration and cellular mechanics is unclear. We analyzed FAK knock-out mouse embryonic fibroblasts and cells expressing a kinase-dead FAK mutant, R454-FAK, in comparison to FAK wild-type cells. FAK knock-out and FAKR454/R454 cells invade dense 3D matrices less efficiently. These results are supported by FAK knock-down in wild-type fibroblasts and MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells showing reduced invasiveness. Pharmacological interventions indicate that in 3D matrices, cells deficient in FAK or kinase-activity behave similarly to wild-type cells treated with inhibitors of Src-activity or actomyosin-contractility. Using magnetic tweezers experiments, FAKR454/R454 cells are shown to be softer and exhibit impaired adhesion to fibronectin and collagen, which is consistent with their reduced 3D invasiveness. In line with this, FAKR454/R454 cells cannot contract the matrix in contrast to FAK wild-type cells. Finally, our findings demonstrate that active FAK facilitates 3D matrix invasion through increased cellular stiffness and transmission of actomyosin-dependent contractile force in dense 3D extracellular matrices.

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