Paxillin is a 68-kD focal adhesion phosphoprotein that interacts with several proteins including members of the src family of tyrosine kinases, the transforming protein v-crk, and the cytoskeletal proteins vinculin and the tyrosine kinase, focal adhesion kinase (FAK). This suggests a function for paxillin as a molecular adaptor, responsible for the recruitment of structural and signaling molecules to focal adhesions. The current study defines the vinculin- and FAK-interaction domains on paxillin and identifies the principal paxillin focal adhesion targeting motif. Using truncation and deletion mutagenesis, we have localized the vinculin-binding site on paxillin to a contiguous stretch of 21 amino acids spanning residues 143-164. In contrast, maximal binding of FAK to paxillin requires, in addition to the region of paxillin spanning amino acids 143-164, a carboxyl-terminal domain encompassing residues 265-313. These data demonstrate the presence of a single binding site for vinculin, and at least two binding sites for FAK that are separated by an intervening stretch of 100 amino acids. Vinculin- and FAK-binding activities within amino acids 143-164 were separable since mutation of amino acid 151 from a negatively charged glutamic acid to the uncharged polar residue glutamine (E151Q) reduced binding of vinculin to paxillin by >90%, with no reduction in the binding capacity for FAK. The requirement for focal adhesion targeting of the vinculin- and FAK-binding regions within paxillin was determined by transfection into CHO.K1 fibroblasts. Significantly and surprisingly, paxillin constructs containing both deletion and point mutations that abrogate binding of FAK and/or vinculin were found to target effectively to focal adhesions. Additionally, expression of the amino-terminal 313 amino acids of paxillin containing intact vinculin- and FAK-binding domains failed to target to focal adhesions. This indicated other regions of paxillin were functioning as focal adhesion localization motifs. The carboxyl-terminal half of paxillin (amino acids 313-559) contains four contiguous double zinc finger LIM domains. Transfection analyses of sequential carboxyl-terminal truncations of the four individual LIM motifs and site-directed mutagenesis of LIM domains 1, 2, and 3, as well as deletion mutagenesis, revealed that the principal mechanism of targeting paxillin to focal adhesions is through LIM3. These data demonstrate that paxillin localizes to focal adhesions independent of interactions with vinculin and/or FAK, and represents the first definitive demonstration of LIM domains functioning as a primary determinant of protein subcellular localization to focal adhesions.

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