|Abstract:||We have investigated the mechanisms by which fibroblasts release their adhesions to the extracellular matrix substrata using a permeabilized cell system in which the adhesions remain relatively stable. A large number of different molecules were assayed for their effect on focal adhesion stability using immunofluorescence with antibodies against different focal adhesion constituents. ATP uniquely stimulates a rapid breakdown of focal adhesions, and at high ATP concentrations $(>$5mM), many cells are released from the dish. The remaining cells appear contracted with talin, $\alpha$-actinin and vinculin localized diffusely throughout the cell. Integrin containing tracks of variable intensity outline the regions where cells had resided before they detached from the substratum. At lower ATP concentrations (0.5-5mM) the cells remain spread; however the focal adhesion components, including integrin, show an array of phenotypes ranging from diffusely localized throughout the cell to a localization in small, thin focal adhesions. Okadaic acid, a serine, threonine phosphatase inhibitor, enhances the contracted phenotype, even at low concentrations (0.5mM) of ATP. The localization of focal adhesion components is different in okadaic acid treated cells. In highly contracted cells, integrin is present in tracks where the cells resided prior to the contraction; however focal adhesions are no longer apparent. Talin, vinculin and $\alpha$-actinin localize in trabecular networks toward the periphery of the cell. Interestingly, phosphotyrosine staining as well as nascent, intracellular integrin precedes the recruitment of focal adhesion constituents into the trabecular network. The ATP-stimulated focal adhesion breakdown appears to operate through two mechanisms. First ATP stimulates the tyrosine phosphorylation of several cytoskeletally associated proteins. These tyrosine phosphorylations correlate well with focal adhesion breakdown. Furthermore, addition of a recombinant, constitutively active tyrosine phosphatase inhibits both the tyrosine phosphorylations and the breakdown of the focal adhesions. None of the major tyrosine phosphoproteins are FAK, integrin, tensin, paxillin or other phosphoproteins implicated in focal adhesion assembly. The second mechanism is cell contraction. High ATP concentrations, or lower ATP concentrations in the presence of okadaic acid induce cell contraction. Inhibiting the contraction by addition of a heptapeptide IRICRKG, which blocks the actin-myosin interaction, also inhibits focal adhesion breakdown. Neither the peptide nor the phosphatase inhibits focal adhesion breakdown under all conditions suggesting that both tension and tyrosine phosphorylations mediate the release of adhesions.