Mechanical regulation of nuclear structure and function

Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 2012;14:431-55. doi: 10.1146/annurev-bioeng-071910-124638. Epub 2012 May 22.


Mechanical loading induces both nuclear distortion and alterations in gene expression in a variety of cell types. Mechanotransduction is the process by which extracellular mechanical forces can activate a number of well-studied cytoplasmic signaling cascades. Inevitably, such signals are transduced to the nucleus and induce transcription factor-mediated changes in gene expression. However, gene expression also can be regulated through alterations in nuclear architecture, providing direct control of genome function. One putative transduction mechanism for this phenomenon involves alterations in nuclear architecture that result from the mechanical perturbation of the cell. This perturbation is associated with direct mechanical strain or osmotic stress, which is transferred to the nucleus. This review describes the current state of knowledge relating the nuclear architecture and the transfer of mechanical forces to the nucleus mediated by the cytoskeleton, the nucleoskeleton, and the LINC (linker of the nucleoskeleton and cytoskeleton) complex. Moreover, remodeling of the nucleus induces alterations in nuclear stiffness, which may be associated with cell differentiation. These phenomena are discussed in relation to the potential influence of nuclear architecture-mediated mechanoregulation of transcription and cell fate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomedical Engineering / methods*
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Cell Nucleus / physiology
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Chromosomes / ultrastructure
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mitosis
  • Models, Biological
  • Osmosis
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Chromatin
  • Histones