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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Tyrosine phosphorylation of cortactin by the FAK-Src complex at focal adhesions regulates cell motility

Wenqi Wang, Yang Liu and Kan Liao*

Author Affiliations

State Key Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200031, China

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BMC Cell Biology 2011, 12:49  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-12-49

Published: 13 November 2011

Abstract

Background

Cell migration plays an important role in many physiological and pathological processes, including immune cell chemotaxis and cancer metastasis. It is a coordinated process that involves dynamic changes in the actin cytoskeleton and its interplay with focal adhesions. At the leading edge of a migrating cell, it is the re-arrangement of actin and its attachment to focal adhesions that generates the driving force necessary for movement. However, the mechanisms involved in the attachment of actin filaments to focal adhesions are still not fully understood.

Results

Signaling by the FAK-Src complex plays a crucial role in regulating the formation of protein complexes at focal adhesions to which the actin filaments are attached. Cortactin, an F-actin associated protein and a substrate of Src kinase, was found to interact with FAK through its SH3 domain and the C-terminal proline-rich regions of FAK. We found that the autophosphorylation of Tyr397 in FAK, which is necessary for FAK activation, was not required for the interaction with cortactin, but was essential for the tyrosine phosphorylation of the associated cortactin. At focal adhesions, cortactin was phosphorylated at tyrosine residues known to be phosphorylated by Src. The tyrosine phosphorylation of cortactin and its ability to associate with the actin cytoskeleton were required in tandem for the regulation of cell motility. Cell motility could be inhibited by truncating the N-terminal F-actin binding domains of cortactin or by blocking tyrosine phosphorylation (Y421/466/475/482F mutation). In addition, the mutant cortactin phosphorylation mimic (Y421/466/475/482E) had a reduced ability to interact with FAK and promoted cell motility. The promotion of cell motility by the cortactin phosphorylation mimic could also be inhibited by truncating its N-terminal F-actin binding domains.

Conclusions

Our results suggest that cortactin acts as a bridging molecule between actin filaments and focal adhesions. The cortactin N-terminus associates with F-actin, while its C-terminus interacts with focal adhesions. The tyrosine phosphorylation of cortactin by the FAK-Src complex modulates its interaction with FAK and increases its turnover at focal adhesions to promote cell motility.

Keywords:
cortactin; cortactin tyrosine phosphorylation; FAK; FAK-Src complex; focal adhesions; cell motility