Integrin-cytoskeletal interactions in migrating fibroblasts are dynamic, asymmetric, and regulated

Christine E. Schmidt, Alan F. Horwitz, Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Michael P. Sheetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

305 Scopus citations


We have used laser optical trapping and nanometer-level motion analysis to investigate the cytoskeletal associations and surface dynamics of β1 integrin, a cell-substrate adhesion molecule, on the dorsal surfaces of migrating fibroblast cells. A single-beam optical gradient trap (laser tweezers) was used to restrain polystyrene beads conjugated with anti-β1 integrin mAbs and place them at desired locations on the cell exterior. This technique was used to demonstrate a spatial difference in integrin-cytoskeleton interactions in migrating cells. We found a distinct increase in the stable attachment of beads, and subsequent rearward flow, on the lamellipodia of locomoting cells compared with the retracting portions. Complementary to the enhanced linkage of integrin at the cell lamellipodium, the membrane was more deformable at the rear versus the front of moving cells while nonmotile cells did not exhibit this asymmetry in membrane architecture. Video microscopy and nanometer-precision tracking routines were used to study the surface dynamics of integrin on the lamellipodia of migrating cells by monitoring the displacements of colloidal gold particles coated with anti-β1 integrin mAbs. Small gold aggregates were rapidly transported preferentially to the leading edge of the lamellipod where they resumed diffusion restricted along the edge. This fast transport was characterized by brief periods of directed movement ("jumps") having an instantaneous velocity of 37 ± 15 μm/min (SD), separated by periods of diffusion. In contrast, larger aggregates of gold particles and the large latex beads underwent slow, steady rearward movement (0.85 ± 0.44 μm/min) (SD) at a rate similar to that reported for other capping events and for migration of these cells. Cell lines containing mutated β1 integrins were used to show that the cytoplasmic domain is essential for an asymmetry in attachment of integrin to the underlying cytoskeletal network and is also necessary for rapid, intermittent transport. However, enhanced membrane deformability at the cell rear does not require integrin-cytoskeletal interactions. We also demonstrated that posttranslational modifications of integrin could potentially play a role in these phenomena. These results suggest a scheme for the role of dynamic integrin-mediated adhesive interactions in cell migration. Integrins are transported preferentially to the cell front where they form nascent adhesions. These adhesive structures grow in size and associate with the cytoskeleton that exerts a rearward force on them. Dorsal aggregates move rearward while those on the ventral side remain fixed to the substrate allowing the cell body to move forward. Detachment of the cell rear occurs by at least two modes: (a) weakened integrin-cytoskeleton interactions, potentially mediated by local modifications of linkage proteins, which lead to weakened cell-substratum interactions and (b) ripping of integrins and the highly deformable membrane from the cell body.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)977-991
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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