Matrix mechanics controls FHL2 movement to the nucleus to activate p21 expression

Naotaka Nakazawa, Aneesh R. Sathe, G. V. Shivashankar, Michael P. Sheetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Substrate rigidity affects many physiological processes through mechanochemical signals from focal adhesion (FA) complexes that subsequently modulate gene expression. We find that shuttling of the LIM domain (domain discovered in the proteins, Lin11, Isl-1, and Mec-3) protein four-and-a-half LIM domains 2 (FHL2) between FAs and the nucleus depends on matrix mechanics. In particular, on soft surfaces or after the loss of force, FHL2 moves from FAs into the nucleus and concentrates at RNA polymerase (Pol) II sites, where it acts as a transcriptional cofactor, causing an increase in p21 gene expression that will inhibit growth on soft surfaces. At the molecular level, shuttling requires a specific tyrosine in FHL2, as well as phosphorylation by active FA kinase (FAK). Thus, we suggest that FHL2 phosphorylation by FAK is a critical, mechanically dependent step in signaling from soft matrices to the nucleus to inhibit cell proliferation by increasing p21 expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E6813-E6822
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number44
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Focal adhesion kinase
  • Four-and-a-half LIM domains 2
  • Gene expression
  • Mechanotransduction
  • Substrate rigidity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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