Mechanosensitive systems at the cadherin-F-actin interface

J Cell Sci. 2013 Jan 15;126(Pt 2):403-13. doi: 10.1242/jcs.109447. Epub 2013 Mar 22.


Cells integrate biochemical and mechanical information to function within multicellular tissue. Within developing and remodeling tissues, mechanical forces contain instructive information that governs important cellular processes that include stem cell maintenance, differentiation and growth. Although the principles of signal transduction (protein phosphorylation, allosteric regulation of enzymatic activity and binding sites) are the same for biochemical and mechanical-induced signaling, the first step of mechanosensing, in which protein complexes under tension transduce changes in physical force into cellular signaling, is very different, and the molecular mechanisms are only beginning to be elucidated. In this Commentary, we focus on mechanotransduction at cell-cell junctions, aiming to comprehend the molecular mechanisms involved. We describe how different junction structures are associated with the actomyosin cytoskeleton and how this relates to the magnitude and direction of forces at cell-cell junctions. We discuss which cell-cell adhesion receptors have been shown to take part in mechanotransduction. Then we outline the force-induced molecular events that might occur within a key mechanosensitive system at cell-cell junctions; the cadherin-F-actin interface, at which α-catenin and vinculin form a central module. Mechanotransduction at cell-cell junctions emerges as an important signaling mechanism, and we present examples of its potential relevance for tissue development and disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism*
  • Adherens Junctions / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction
  • Vinculin / metabolism
  • alpha Catenin / metabolism


  • Actins
  • Cadherins
  • alpha Catenin
  • Vinculin