Friction-controlled traction force in cell adhesion

Biophys J. 2011 Oct 19;101(8):1863-70. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2011.08.027.


The force balance between the extracellular microenvironment and the intracellular cytoskeleton controls the cell fate. We report a new (to our knowledge) mechanism of receptor force control in cell adhesion originating from friction between cell adhesion ligands and the supporting substrate. Adherent human endothelial cells have been studied experimentally on polymer substrates noncovalently coated with fluorescent-labeled fibronectin (FN). The cellular traction force correlated with the mobility of FN during cell-driven FN fibrillogenesis. The experimental findings have been explained within a mechanistic two-dimensional model of the load transfer at focal adhesion sites. Myosin motor activity in conjunction with sliding of FN ligands noncovalently coupled to the surface of the polymer substrates is shown to result in a controlled traction force of adherent cells. We conclude that the friction of adhesion ligands on the supporting substrate is important for mechanotransduction and cell development of adherent cells in vitro and in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Adhesion
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Diffusion
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Focal Adhesions / metabolism
  • Friction*
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Biological*


  • Ligands