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'Merging of ventral fibers at adhesions drives the remodeling of cellular contractile systems in fibroblasts.'


Narasimhan SShwetha , Holmes WRWilliam R , Kaverina IIrina . Cytoskeleton (Hoboken, N.J.). 2022 08 23; ().


Ventral stress fibers (VSFs) are contractile actin fibers dynamically attached to cell-matrix focal adhesions. VSFs are critical in cellular traction force production and migration. VSF vary from randomly oriented short, thinner fibers to long, thick fibers that span along the whole long axis of a cell. De novo VSF formation was shown to occur by cortical actin mesh condensation or by crosslinking of dorsal stress fibers and transverse arcs at the cell front. However, formation of long VSFs that extend across the whole cell axis is not well understood. Here, we report a novel phenomenon of VSF merging in migratory fibroblast cells, which is guided by mechanical force balance and contributes to VSF alignment along the long cell axis. The mechanism of VSF merging involves two steps: connection of two ventral fibers by an emerging myosin II bridge at an intervening adhesion and intervening adhesion dissolution. Our data indicate that these two steps are interdependent: slow adhesion disassembly leads to slowing of the myosin bridge formation. Cellular data and computational modeling show that the contact angle between merging fibers decides successful merging, with shallow angles leading to merge failure. Our data and modeling further show that merging increases the share of uniformly aligned long VSFs, likely contributing to directional traction force production. Thus, we characterize merging as a process for dynamic reorganization of VSFs with functional significance for directional cell migration. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.