by Andre on 28 September 2009
The current issue of Current Biology has a special section on Cell Form and Physics that starts with a nice editorial by Florian Maderspacher. I wrote a review with my PhD advisor, Dennis Discher, for the issue that you can find here (or here [pdf] if that doesn’t work). Best of all, the articles seem to be freely available, at least for now.
The main point of our review is that for all the work identifying molecules that are associated with stiffness and force sensing, there has been relatively little progress towards understanding the actual force sensitive steps. That is, although it’s known that many proteins are recruited to focal adhesions when cells are stretched, and that others are phosphorylated and play a role in various signaling cascades, these processes themselves are not directly regulated by force—they are secondary players in mechanotransduction.
Recently there have been some interesting results showing that forced protein unfolding in several different contexts could be critical. We review some of this work and related work that points towards unfolding even in cases where it hasn’t been definitively demonstrated. Ultimately, it looks like there will not be a single cellular “mechanosensor” but instead a whole host of different mechanosensitive processes that contribute in different ways. There’s lots of room here for more work by physicists and I hope people continue to get interested.