The Force is Strong with This Epigenome: Chromatin Structure and Mechanobiology

J Mol Biol. 2023 Jun 1;435(11):168019. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2023.168019. Epub 2023 Jun 16.


All life forms sense and respond to mechanical stimuli. Throughout evolution, organisms develop diverse mechanosensing and mechanotransduction pathways, leading to fast and sustained mechanoresponses. Memory and plasticity characteristics of mechanoresponses are thought to be stored in the form of epigenetic modifications, including chromatin structure alterations. These mechanoresponses in the chromatin context share conserved principles across species, such as lateral inhibition during organogenesis and development. However, it remains unclear how mechanotransduction mechanisms alter chromatin structure for specific cellular functions, and if altered chromatin structure can mechanically affect the environment. In this review, we discuss how chromatin structure is altered by environmental forces via an outside-in pathway for cellular functions, and the emerging concept of how chromatin structure alterations can mechanically affect nuclear, cellular, and extracellular environments. This bidirectional mechanical feedback between chromatin of the cell and the environment can potentially have important physiological implications, such as in centromeric chromatin regulation of mechanobiology in mitosis, or in tumor-stroma interactions. Finally, we highlight the current challenges and open questions in the field and provide perspectives for future research.

Keywords: Chromatin; Epigenetics; Mechanobiology; Mechanoresponse; Mechanosensing.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin* / chemistry
  • Chromatin* / genetics
  • Epigenome*
  • Humans
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular* / genetics
  • Mitosis*
  • Neoplasms
  • Stromal Cells


  • Chromatin