Paxillin and vinculin are cytoskeletal proteins that colocalise to focal adhesions, specialised regions of the cell involved in attachment to the extracellular matrix. These two molecules form part of a complex of proteins that link the actin network to the plasma membrane. Paxillin has been shown to bind directly in vitro to the C-terminal region of vinculin (Turner et al. (1990). J. Cell Biol. 111, 1059–1068), which also contains a focal adhesion targeting sequence (Bendori et al. (1989). J. Cell Biol. 108, 2383–2393). In the present study, we have used a series of vinculin deletion mutants to map more precisely the sites in vinculin responsible for paxillin binding and focal adhesion localisation. A glutathione-S-transferase fusion protein spanning vinculin residues 881–1000 was sufficient to support 125I-paxillin binding in a gel-blot assay while no detectable binding was observed to a fusion protein spanning residues 881–978. Transfection experiments using cDNAs encoding chick vinculin residues 398–1066 and 398–1028 demonstrated that amino acids C-terminal to residue 1028 were not necessary for targeting to focal adhesions. In contrast, a vinculin polypeptide expressed from a cDNA encoding residues 398–1000 failed to localise to focal adhesions in stably transfected NIH3T3 cells. We have therefore identified a region of 50 amino acids (residues 979–1028) within the C-terminal region of vinculin that contains both the paxillin-binding site and the focal adhesion targeting sequence. This region is highly conserved in human and chicken vinculin and is likely to be important in regulation of the assembly of focal adhesions.

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