Focal adhesions, contractility, and signaling

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 1996;12:463-518. doi: 10.1146/annurev.cellbio.12.1.463.


Focal adhesions are sites of tight adhesion to the underlying extracellular matrix developed by cells in culture. They provided a structural link between the actin cytoskeleton and the extracellular matrix and are regions of signal transduction that relate to growth control. The assembly of focal adhesions is regulated by the GTP-binding protein Rho. Rho stimulates contractility which, in cells that are tightly adherent to the substrate, generates isometric tension. In turn, this leads to the bundling of actin filaments and the aggregation of integrins (extracellular matrix receptors) in the plane of the membrane. The aggregation of integrins activates the focal adhesion kinase and leads to the assembly of a multicomponent signaling complex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cytoskeleton*
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins*
  • Extracellular Matrix*
  • GTP-Binding Proteins*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • rhoB GTP-Binding Protein


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • GTP-Binding Proteins
  • rhoB GTP-Binding Protein