Visualizing the Interior Architecture of Focal Adhesions with High-Resolution Traction Maps

Masatoshi Morimatsu, Armen H. Mekhdjian, Alice C. Chang, Steven J. Tan, Alexander R. Dunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


Focal adhesions (FAs) are micron-sized protein assemblies that coordinate cell adhesion, migration, and mechanotransduction. How the many proteins within FAs are organized into force sensing and transmitting structures is poorly understood. We combined fluorescent molecular tension sensors with super-resolution light microscopy to visualize traction forces within FAs with <100 nm spatial resolution. We find that αvβ3 integrin selectively localizes to high force regions. Paxillin, which is not generally considered to play a direct role in force transmission, shows a higher degree of spatial correlation with force than vinculin, talin, or α-actinin, proteins with hypothesized roles as force transducers. These observations suggest that αvβ3 integrin and paxillin may play important roles in mechanotransduction. (Figure Presented).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2220-2228
Number of pages9
JournalNano Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 8 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Mechanobiology
  • focal adhesion
  • integrin
  • molecular tension sensor
  • super-resolution
  • traction force microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering


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