• Authors: Cheah JS. et al.
  • Year: 2019
  • Journal: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 116 19799-19801
  • Applications: in vitro / DNA / jetOPTIMUS
  • Cell type: MDCK-II


The cytoskeleton provides structural integrity to cells and serves as a key component in mechanotransduction. Tensins are thought to provide a force-bearing linkage between integrins and the actin cytoskeleton; yet, direct evidence of tensin's role in mechanotransduction is lacking. We here report that local force application to epithelial cells using a micrometer-sized needle leads to rapid accumulation of cten (tensin 4), but not tensin 1, along a fibrous intracellular network. Surprisingly, cten-positive fibers are not actin fibers; instead, these fibers are keratin intermediate filaments. The dissociation of cten from tension-free keratin fibers depends on the duration of cell stretch, demonstrating that the external force favors maturation of cten-keratin network interactions over time and that keratin fibers retain remarkable structural memory of a cell's force-bearing state. These results establish the keratin network as an integral part of force-sensing elements recruiting distinct proteins like cten and suggest the existence of a mechanotransduction pathway via keratin network.