Authors: Joseph A. Brazzo III, Kwonmoo Lee, Yongho Bae
Cells exhibit pathological behaviors in response to increased extracellular matrix (ECM) stiffness, including accelerated cell proliferation and migration [1–9], which are correlated with increased intracellular stiffness and tension [2, 3, 10–12]. The biomechanical signal transduction of ECM stiffness into relevant molecular signals and resultant cellular processes is mediated through multiple proteins associated with the actin cytoskeleton in lamellipodia [2, 3, 10, 11, 13]. However, the molecular mechanisms by which lamellipodial dynamics regulate cellular responses to ECM stiffening remain unclear. Previous work described that lamellipodin, a phosphoinositide- and actin filament-binding protein that is known mostly for controlling cell migration [14–21], promotes ECM stiffness-mediated early cell cycle progression , revealing a potential commonality between the mechanisms controlling stiffness-dependent cell migration and those controlling cell proliferation. However, i) whether and how ECM stiffness affects the levels of lamellipodin expression and ii) whether stiffness-mediated lamellipodin expression is required throughout cell cycle progression and for intracellular stiffness have not been explored. Here, we show that the levels of lamellipodin expression in cells are significantly increased by a stiff ECM and that this stiffness-mediated lamellipodin upregulation persistently stimulates cell cycle progression and intracellular stiffness throughout the cell cycle, from the early G1 phase to M phase. Finally, we show that both Rac activation and intracellular stiffening are required for the mechanosensitive induction of lamellipodin. More specifically, inhibiting Rac1 activation in cells on stiff ECM reduces the levels of lamellipodin expression, and this effect is reversed by the overexpression of activated Rac1 in cells on soft ECM. We thus propose that lamellipodin is a critical molecular lynchpin in the control of mechanosensitive cell cycle progression and intracellular stiffness.