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Research Article

Extracellular signal-regulated kinase and c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase activation by mechanical stretch is integrin-dependent and matrix-specific in rat cardiac fibroblasts.

D A MacKenna, F Dolfi, K Vuori and E Ruoslahti

La Jolla Cancer Research Center, The Burnham Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.

Published January 15, 1998

Integrins, which connect the cytoskeleton to the extracellular matrix and mediate a variety of signaling cascades, may transduce mechanical stimuli into biochemical signals. We studied integrin- and matrix-dependent activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK2), c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK1), and p38 in response to 4% static biaxial stretch in rat cardiac fibroblasts. ERK2 and JNK1, but not p38, were rapidly activated by stretch when the fibroblasts were allowed to synthesize their own matrices. When the cells were limited to specific matrix substrates, ERK2 and JNK1 were differentially activated: ERK2 was only activated when the cells were plated on fibronectin, while JNK1 was activated when the cells were plated on fibronectin, vitronectin, or laminin. Plating cells on collagen before stretching did not activate either kinase. Adhesion to all matrices was integrin-dependent because it could be blocked by inhibitors of specific integrins. ERK2 activation could be blocked with a combination of anti-alpha4 and -alpha5 antibodies and an arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (RGD) peptide, while the antibodies or peptide used separately failed to block ERK2 activation. This result suggests that at least two integrins, alpha4beta1 and an RGD-directed, non-alpha5beta1 integrin, activate ERK2 in response to mechanical stimulation. Activation of JNK1 could not be blocked with the inhibitors, suggesting that an RGD-independent integrin or integrins other than alpha4beta1 can activate JNK1 in cells adherent to fibronectin. This study demonstrates that integrins act as mechanotransducers, providing insight into potential mechanisms for in vivo responses to mechanical stimuli.