GSBS Student Publications


Distinct roles of frontal and rear cell-substrate adhesions in fibroblast migration

UMMS Affiliation

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; Department of Physiology



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

3T3 Cells; Animals; Biomechanics; Cell Adhesion; *Cell Movement; Fibroblasts; Mice; Microscopy, Phase-Contrast; Oligopeptides; Time Factors


Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


Cell migration involves complex physical and chemical interactions with the substrate. To probe the mechanical interactions under different regions of migrating 3T3 fibroblasts, we have disrupted cell-substrate adhesions by local application of the GRGDTP peptide, while imaging stress distribution on the substrate with traction force microscopy. Both spontaneous and GRGDTP-induced detachment of the trailing edge caused extensive cell shortening, without changing the overall level of traction forces or the direction of migration. In contrast, disruption of frontal adhesions caused dramatic, global loss of traction forces before any significant shortening of the cell. Although traction forces and cell migration recovered within 10-20 min of transient frontal treatment, persistent treatment with GRGDTP caused the cell to develop traction forces elsewhere and reorient toward a new direction. We conclude that contractile forces of a fibroblast are transmitted to the substrate through two distinct types of adhesions. Leading edge adhesions are unique in their ability to transmit active propulsive forces. Their functions cannot be transferred directly to existing adhesions upon detachment. Trailing end adhesions create passive resistance during cell migration and readily redistribute their loads upon detachment. Our results indicate the distinct nature of mechanical interactions at the leading versus trailing edges, which together generate the mechanical interactions for fibroblast migration.

Rights and Permissions

Citation: Mol Biol Cell. 2001 Dec;12(12):3947-54.

Related Resources

Link to article in PubMed

Journal Title

Molecular biology of the cell

PubMed ID