Focal adhesions: a personal perspective on a half century of progress

FEBS J. 2017 Oct;284(20):3355-3361. doi: 10.1111/febs.14195. Epub 2017 Aug 30.


Focal adhesions (FAs) are specialized sites within the cell where clustered integrin receptors interact with the extracellular matrix on the outside of cells and with the actin cytoskeleton on the inside. They provide strong adhesion to the matrix and transmit mechanical tension generated within cells across the plasma membrane to the external environment. Additionally, they act as scaffolds for many signaling pathways triggered by integrin engagement or mechanical force exerted on cells. Here I describe my personal perspective on FA research which I have witnessed since the initial discovery and description of FAs as electron dense regions of the ventral plasma nearly half a century ago.

Keywords: FAK; RhoA; adhesion plaques; cell migration; focal adhesions; focal complexes; nascent adhesions; stress fibers.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Focal Adhesions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*


  • integrin-linked kinase
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases