Substrate stiffness regulates temporary NF-κB activation via actomyosin contractions

Exp Cell Res. 2013 Nov 15;319(19):2916-27. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2013.09.018. Epub 2013 Oct 8.


Physical properties of the extracellular matrix (ECM) can control cellular phenotypes via mechanotransduction, which is the process of translation of mechanical stresses into biochemical signals. While current research is clarifying the relationship between mechanotransduction and cytoskeleton or adhesion complexes, the contribution of transcription factors to mechanotransduction is not well understood. The results of this study revealed that the transcription factor NF-κB, a major regulator for immunoreaction and cancer progression, is responsive to substrate stiffness. NF-κB activation was temporarily induced in H1299 lung adenocarcinoma cells grown on a stiff substrate but not in cells grown on a soft substrate. Although the activation of NF-κB was independent of the activity of integrin β1, an ECM-binding protein, the activation was dependent on actomyosin contractions induced by phosphorylation of myosin regulatory light chain (MRLC). Additionally, the inhibition of MRLC phosphorylation by Rho kinase inhibitor Y27632 reduced the activity of NF-κB. We also observed substrate-specific morphology of the cells, with cells grown on the soft substrate appearing more rounded and cells grown on the stiff substrate appearing more spread out. Inhibiting NF-κB activation caused a reversal of these morphologies on both substrates. These results suggest that substrate stiffness regulates NF-κB activity via actomyosin contractions, resulting in morphological changes.

Keywords: Actomyosin; Lung adenocarcinoma cell; Mechanotransduction; NF-κB; Substrate stiffness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actomyosin / physiology*
  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism
  • Adenocarcinoma of Lung
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Substrate Specificity


  • NF-kappa B
  • Actomyosin