Chapter 1. Focal adhesions: new angles on an old structure

Int Rev Cell Mol Biol. 2009;277:1-65. doi: 10.1016/S1937-6448(09)77001-7.


Focal adhesions have been intensely studied ever since their discovery in 1971. The last three decades have seen major advances in understanding the structure of focal adhesions and the functions they serve in cellular adhesion, migration, and other biological processes. In this chapter, we begin with a historical perspective of focal adhesions, provide an overview of focal adhesion biology, and highlight recent major advances in the field. Specifically, we review the different types of matrix adhesions and the role different Rho GTPases play in their formation. We discuss the relative contributions of integrin and syndecan adhesion receptors to the formation of focal adhesions. We also focus on new insights gained from studying focal adhesions on biomaterial surfaces and from the growing field of mechanotransduction. Throughout this chapter, we have highlighted areas of focal adhesion biology where major questions still remain to be answered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Focal Adhesions / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism


  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins