The molecular architecture of focal adhesions

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 1995:11:379-416. doi: 10.1146/annurev.cb.11.110195.002115.


This article outlines the present knowledge of the architecture, molecular composition, and dynamics of focal contacts of adhesive animal cells. These structures, developed at the plasma membrane at sites where cells touch their substratum, are essential for cellular attachment in tissue formation during embryogenesis and wound healing. In tissue culture, they are particularly prominent and thus amenable to detailed investigation. Focal contacts consist of a cytoplasmic face, comprising cytoskeletal elements, a transmembrane connecting region, and a extracellular face composed of proteins of the extracellular matrix. The molecular anatomy of the numerous proteins involved, the basis for classifying them as structural or regulatory components, and their in vitro interactions are described. Based on this information, current models on the dynamics of their assembly and of possible regulatory mechanisms involving a variety of signal transduction pathways are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion*
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cytoplasm / physiology
  • Cytoplasm / ultrastructure
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology
  • Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development
  • Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / physiology
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Integrins / physiology
  • Lim Kinases
  • Microfilament Proteins / physiology
  • Phospholipases / metabolism
  • Proline
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Wound Healing


  • Actins
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Integrins
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Proline
  • Protein Kinases
  • LIMK1 protein, human
  • Lim Kinases
  • Phospholipases
  • Endopeptidases
  • GTP-Binding Proteins