Both cell–cell and cell–matrix adhesions are regulated by mechanical signals, but the mechanobiological processes that mediate the cross talk between these structures are poorly understood. Here we show that α-catenin, a mechanosensitive protein that is classically linked with cadherin-based adhesions, associates with and regulates integrin adhesions. α-Catenin is recruited to the edges of mesenchymal cells, where it interacts with F-actin. This is followed by mutual retrograde flow of α-catenin and F-actin from the cell edge, during which α-catenin interacts with vinculin within integrin adhesions. This interaction affects adhesion maturation, stress-fiber assembly, and force transmission to the matrix. In epithelial cells, α-catenin is present in cell–cell adhesions and absent from cell–matrix adhesions. However, when these cells undergo epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, α-catenin transitions to the cell edge, where it facilitates proper mechanosensing. This is highlighted by the ability of α-catenin–depleted cells to grow on soft matrices. These results suggest a dual role of α-catenin in mechanosensing, through both cell–cell and cell–matrix adhesions.

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