Cells from diverse tissues detect mechanical load signals by similar mechanisms but respond differently. The diversity of responses reflects the genotype of the cell and the mechanical demands of the resident tissue. We hypothesize that cells maintain a basal equilibrium stress state that is a function of the number and quality of focal adhesions, the polymerization state of the cytoskeleton, and the amount of extrinsic, applied mechanical deformation. A load stimulus detected by a mechano-electrochemical sensory system, including mechanically sensitive ion channels, integrin-cytoskeleton machinery, and (or) a load-conformation sensitive receptor or nonreceptor tyrosine kinase, may activate G proteins, induce second messengers, and activate an RPTK or JAK/STAT kinase cascade to elicit a response. We propose the terms autobaric to describe a self-loading process, whereby a cell increases its stress state by contracting and applying a mechanical load to itself, and parabaric, whereby a cell applies a load to an adjacent cell by direct contact or through the matrix. We predict that the setpoint for maintaining this basal stress state is affected by continuity of incoming mechanical signals as deformations that activate signalling pathways. A displacement of the cytoskeletal machinery may result in a conformational change in a kinase that results in autophosphorylation and cascade initiation. pp60Src is such a kinase and is part of a mechanosensory protein complex linking integrins with the cytoskeleton. Cyclic mechanical load induces rapid Src phosphorylation. Regulation of the extent of kinase activation in the pathway(s) may be controlled by modulators such as G proteins, kinase phosphorylation and activation, and kinase inhibitors or phosphatases. Intervention at the point of ras-raf interaction may be particularly important as a restriction point.