Vinculin promotes cell spreading by mechanically coupling integrins to the cytoskeleton

Robert M. Ezzell, Wolfgang H. Goldmann, Ning Wang, Natesh Parasharama, Donald E. Ingber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mouse F9 embryonic carcinoma 5.51 cells that lack the cytoskeletal protein vinculin spread poorly on extracellular matrix compared with wild- type F9 cells or two vinculin-transfected clones (5.51Vin3 and Vin4; Samuels et al., 1993, J. Cell Biol. 121, 909-921). In the present study, we used this model system to determine how the presence of vinculin promotes cytoskeletal alterations and associated changes in cell shape. Microscopic analysis of cell spreading at early times, revealed that 5.51 cells retained the ability to form filopodia; however, they could not form lamellipodia, assemble stress fibers, or efficiently spread over the culture substrate. Detergent (Triton X-100) studies revealed that these major differences in cell morphology and cytoskeletal organization did not result from differences in levels of total polymerized or cross-linked actin. Biochemical studies showed that 5.51 cells, in addition to lacking vinculin, exhibited slightly reduced levels of α-actinin and paxillin in their detergent-insoluble cytoskeleton. The absence of vinculin correlated with a decrease in the mechanical stiffness of the integrin-cytoskeleton linkage, as measured using cell magnetometry. Furthermore, when vinculin was replaced by transfection in 5.51Vin3 and 5.51Vin4 cells, the levels of cytoskeletal- associated α-actinin and paxillin, the efficiency of transmembrane mechanical coupling, and the formation of actin stress fibers were all restored to near wild-type levels. These findings suggest that vinculin may promote cell spreading by stabilizing focal adhesions and transferring mechanical stresses that drive cytoskeletal remodeling, rather than by altering the total level of actin polymerization or cross-linking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-26
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 25 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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