Cellular mechanosensing: getting to the nucleus of it all

Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2014 Aug;115(2-3):76-92. doi: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2014.06.009. Epub 2014 Jul 5.


Cells respond to mechanical forces by activating specific genes and signaling pathways that allow the cells to adapt to their physical environment. Examples include muscle growth in response to exercise, bone remodeling based on their mechanical load, or endothelial cells aligning under fluid shear stress. While the involved downstream signaling pathways and mechanoresponsive genes are generally well characterized, many of the molecular mechanisms of the initiating 'mechanosensing' remain still elusive. In this review, we discuss recent findings and accumulating evidence suggesting that the cell nucleus plays a crucial role in cellular mechanotransduction, including processing incoming mechanoresponsive signals and even directly responding to mechanical forces. Consequently, mutations in the involved proteins or changes in nuclear envelope composition can directly impact mechanotransduction signaling and contribute to the development and progression of a variety of human diseases, including muscular dystrophy, cancer, and the focus of this review, dilated cardiomyopathy. Improved insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying nuclear mechanotransduction, brought in part by the emergence of new technologies to study intracellular mechanics at high spatial and temporal resolution, will not only result in a better understanding of cellular mechanosensing in normal cells but may also lead to the development of novel therapies in the many diseases linked to defects in nuclear envelope proteins.

Keywords: Cell signaling; Lamins; Mechanics; Mechanotransduction; Nesprins; Nuclear envelope.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology*
  • Ion Channels / physiology*
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Nuclear Envelope / physiology*


  • Ion Channels