The mechanobiome: a goldmine for cancer therapeutics

Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2021 Mar 1;320(3):C306-C323. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00409.2020. Epub 2020 Nov 11.


Cancer progression is dependent on heightened mechanical adaptation, both for the cells' ability to change shape and to interact with varying mechanical environments. This type of adaptation is dependent on mechanoresponsive proteins that sense and respond to mechanical stress, as well as their regulators. Mechanoresponsive proteins are part of the mechanobiome, which is the larger network that constitutes the cell's mechanical systems that are also highly integrated with many other cellular systems, such as gene expression, metabolism, and signaling. Despite the altered expression patterns of key mechanobiome proteins across many different cancer types, pharmaceutical targeting of these proteins has been overlooked. Here, we review the biochemistry of key mechanoresponsive proteins, specifically nonmuscle myosin II, α-actinins, and filamins, as well as the partnering proteins 14-3-3 and CLP36. We also examined a wide range of data sets to assess how gene and protein expression levels of these proteins are altered across many different cancer types. Finally, we determined the potential of targeting these proteins to mitigate invasion or metastasis and suggest that the mechanobiome is a goldmine of opportunity for anticancer drug discovery and development.

Keywords: filamin; mechanoresponse; metastasis; myosin; α-actinin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Actinin / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Filamins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • Humans
  • Myosin Type II / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Filamins
  • Actinin
  • Myosin Type II