The linkage of cells to their microenvironment is mediated by a series of bonds that dynamically engage and disengage, in what has been conceptualized as the molecular clutch model. Whereas this model has long been employed to describe actin cytoskeleton and cell migration dynamics, it has recently been proposed to also explain mechanotransduction (i.e., the process by which cells convert mechanical signals from their environment into biochemical signals). Here we review the current understanding on how cell dynamics and mechanotransduction are driven by molecular clutch dynamics and its master regulator, the force loading rate. Throughout this Review, we place a specific emphasis on the quantitative prediction of cell response enabled by combined experimental and theoretical approaches.
Keywords: cadherins; cell adhesion; focal adhesions; integrins; mechanobiology.
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