The environment around a cell during in vitro culture is unlikely to mimic those in vivo. Preliminary experiments with nanotopography have shown that nanoscale features can strongly influence cell morphology, adhesion, proliferation and gene regulation, but the mechanisms mediating this cell response remain unclear. In this perspective article, we attempt to illustrate that a possible mechanism is direct transmittal of forces encountered by cells during spreading to the nucleus via the cytoskeleton. We further try to illustrate that this 'self-induced' mechanotransduction may alter gene expression by changing interphase chromosome positioning. Whilst the observations described here to show how we think nanotopography can be developed as a tool to look at mechanotransduction are preliminary, we feel they indicate that topography may give cell biologists a non-invasive tool with which to investigate in vitro cellular mechanisms.