A Perspective on the Role of Myosins as Mechanosensors

Biophys J. 2016 Jun 21;110(12):2568-2576. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2016.05.021.


Cells are dynamic systems that generate and respond to forces over a range of spatial and temporal scales, spanning from single molecules to tissues. Substantial progress has been made in recent years in identifying the molecules and pathways responsible for sensing and transducing mechanical signals to short-term cellular responses and longer-term changes in gene expression, cell identity, and tissue development. In this perspective article, we focus on myosin motors, as they not only function as the primary force generators in well-studied mechanobiological processes, but also act as key mechanosensors in diverse functions including intracellular transport, signaling, cell migration, muscle contraction, and sensory perception. We discuss how the biochemical and mechanical properties of different myosin isoforms are tuned to fulfill these roles in an array of cellular processes, and we highlight the underappreciated diversity of mechanosensing properties within the myosin superfamily. In particular, we use modeling and simulations to make predictions regarding how diversity in force sensing affects the lifetime of the actomyosin bond, the myosin power output, and the ability of myosin to respond to a perturbation in force for several nonprocessive myosin isoforms.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Myosins / metabolism*


  • Myosins