An optogenetic model reveals cell shape regulation through FAK and fascin

Jean A. Castillo-Badillo, N. Gautam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Cell shape regulation is important, but the mechanisms that govern shape are not fully understood, in part due to limited experimental models in which cell shape changes and underlying molecular processes can be rapidly and non-invasively monitored in real time. Here, we used an optogenetic tool to activate RhoA in the middle of mononucleated macrophages to induce contraction, resulting in a side with the nucleus that retained its shape and a non-nucleated side that was unable to maintain its shape and collapsed. In cells overexpressing focal adhesion kinase (FAK; also known as PTK2), the non-nucleated side exhibited a wide flat morphology and was similar in adhesion area to the nucleated side. In cells overexpressing fascin, an actin-bundling protein, the non-nucleated side assumed a spherical shape and was similar in height to the nucleated side. This effect of fascin was also observed in fibroblasts even without inducing furrow formation. Based on these results, we conclude that FAK and fascin work together to maintain cell shape by regulating adhesion area and height, respectively, in different cell types.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjcs258321
JournalJournal of cell science
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Cell shape
  • Fascin
  • Focal adhesion kinase
  • Microscopy
  • Optogenetics


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