The force-dependent interaction between talin and vinculin plays a crucial role in the initiation and growth of focal adhesions. Here we use magnetic tweezers to characterise the mechano-sensitive compact N-terminal region of the talin rod, and show that the three helical bundles R1-R3 in this region unfold in three distinct steps consistent with the domains unfolding independently. Mechanical stretching of talin R1-R3 enhances its binding to vinculin and vinculin binding inhibits talin refolding after force is released. Mutations that stabilize R3 identify it as the initial mechano-sensing domain in talin, unfolding at a ̂1/45a €...pN, suggesting that 5a €...pN is the force threshold for vinculin binding and adhesion progression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas