To understand how complex machines perform their functions, it is essential to map out the ‘blueprints’ of how their internal components are organized. Focal adhesions (FAs) are complex mechanobiological structures involved in a plethora of cell biological processes. The application of super-resolution microscopy in concert with protein engineering offers one approach to unravel the complexity of how individual proteins are organized within FAs. In our recent application, the FA protein talin was found to form a direct structural and physical link between integrin and actin. Interestingly, engineered talin constructs with alternate lengths rescaled the FA nanostructure accordingly. This helped establish that talin could be analogous to the backbone of FAs, serving as the mechanosensitive master coordinator of FA structural organization.

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