Mechanoaccumulative Elements of the Mammalian Actin Cytoskeleton

Eric S. Schiffhauer, Tianzhi Luo, Krithika Mohan, Vasudha Srivastava, Xuyu Qian, Eric R. Griffis, Pablo A Iglesias, Douglas Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


To change shape, divide, form junctions, and migrate, cells reorganize their cytoskeletons in response to changing mechanical environments [1-4]. Actin cytoskeletal elements, including myosin II motors and actin crosslinkers, structurally remodel and activate signaling pathways in response to imposed stresses [5-9]. Recent studies demonstrate the importance of force-dependent structural rearrangement of α-catenin in adherens junctions [10] and vinculin's molecular clutch mechanism in focal adhesions [11]. However, the complete landscape of cytoskeletal mechanoresponsive proteins and the mechanisms by which these elements sense and respond to force remain to be elucidated. To find mechanosensitive elements in mammalian cells, we examined protein relocalization in response to controlled external stresses applied to individual cells. Here, we show that non-muscle myosin II, α-actinin, and filamin accumulate to mechanically stressed regions in cells from diverse lineages. Using reaction-diffusion models for force-sensitive binding, we successfully predicted which mammalian α-actinin and filamin paralogs would be mechanoaccumulative. Furthermore, a "Goldilocks zone" must exist for each protein where the actin-binding affinity must be optimal for accumulation. In addition, we leveraged genetic mutants to gain a molecular understanding of the mechanisms of α-actinin and filamin catch-bonding behavior. Two distinct modes of mechanoaccumulation can be observed: a fast, diffusion-based accumulation and a slower, myosin II-dependent cortical flow phase that acts on proteins with specific binding lifetimes. Finally, we uncovered cell-type- and cell-cycle-stage-specific control of the mechanosensation of myosin IIB, but not myosin IIA or IIC. Overall, these mechanoaccumulative mechanisms drive the cell's response to physical perturbation during proper tissue development and disease. The actin cytoskeleton controls cellular shape change during normal development and in disease processes. Schiffhauer et al. discover mammalian cytoskeletal proteins that accumulate in response to stress and outline molecular mechanisms driving this accumulation. These proteins comprise the cell's network-scale response to control cell shape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCurrent Biology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Nov 20 2015


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

Cite this

Schiffhauer, E. S., Luo, T., Mohan, K., Srivastava, V., Qian, X., Griffis, E. R., ... Robinson, D. (Accepted/In press). Mechanoaccumulative Elements of the Mammalian Actin Cytoskeleton. Current Biology.