Focal adhesions under force
King's College London
The behaviour of a cell can be transformed by the rigidity of its local environment. This is mainly achieved through a specialised hub of molecules called the focal adhesion complex, which links the cell with its surrounding matrix. The process of applying and sensing force is similar to a game of tug-of-war, where forces applied at one end can be easily detected at the other. Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) has multiple roles in this process. It senses force, recruits new proteins to the adhesion, triggers the disassembly of the adhesion complex, and changes gene expression.
I aim to understand how FAK acts as a nanometre-sized mechanical sensor that can convert mechanical cues, such as substrate stiffness, into changes in cell behaviour and gene expression.
My findings will add to our knowledge of the role of FAK.