Partners in protection: interdependence of cytoskeleton and plasma membrane in adaptations to applied forces

J Membr Biol. 2000 Mar 15;174(2):85-95. doi: 10.1007/s002320001034.


In mechanically active environments mammalian cells must cope with potentially injurious forces to survive, but the most proximal mechanosensors are largely unknown. How mechanoprotective responses to applied forces are generated and regulated is still a mystery. We consider recent evidence that suggests cellular mechanoprotective adaptations involve a coordinated remodeling of the cell membrane and the associated cytoskeleton. The plasma membrane "protects" the cytoskeleton by maintenance of intracellular ionic balance and can modulate force-induced cytoskeletal rearrangements by stretch-activated (e.g., Ca(2+)) ion channels and mechanosensitive enzymes (e.g., Phospholipase A(2) and Phospholipase C). Conversely, the cytoskeleton protects the plasma membrane by providing structural support, reinforcement of the cortical framework at sites of force application, modulation of mechanosensitive ion channels and by potentially contributing to the membrane resealing process after mechanical rupture. We suggest that the plasma membrane and the cytoskeleton are partners in the cytoprotective response to physical forces.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels
  • Mechanoreceptors
  • Polymers


  • Ion Channels
  • Polymers