Pushing back: wound mechanotransduction in repair and regeneration

J Invest Dermatol. 2011 Nov;131(11):2186-96. doi: 10.1038/jid.2011.212. Epub 2011 Jul 21.


Human skin is a highly specialized mechanoresponsive interface separating our bodies from the external environment. It must constantly adapt to dynamic physical cues ranging from rapid expansion during embryonic and early postnatal development to ubiquitous external forces throughout life. Despite the suspected role of the physical environment in cutaneous processes, the fundamental molecular mechanisms responsible for how skin responds to force remain unclear. Intracellular pathways convert mechanical cues into biochemical responses (in a process known as mechanotransduction) via complex mechanoresponsive elements that often blur the distinction between physical and chemical signaling. For example, cellular focal adhesion components exhibit dual biochemical and scaffolding functions that are critically modulated by force. Moreover, the extracellular matrix itself is increasingly recognized to mechanically regulate the spatiotemporal distribution of soluble and matrix-bound ligands, underscoring the importance of bidirectional crosstalk between cells and their physical environment. It seems likely that a structural hierarchy exists to maintain both cells and matrix in mechanical homeostasis and that dysregulation of this architectural integrity may underlie or contribute to various skin disorders. An improved understanding of these interactions will facilitate the development of novel biophysical materials and mechanomodulatory approaches to augment wound repair and regeneration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Regeneration / physiology*
  • Skin / injuries
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Wound Healing / physiology*