The cytoskeleton and cell signaling: component localization and mechanical coupling

Physiol Rev. 1998 Jul;78(3):763-81. doi: 10.1152/physrev.1998.78.3.763.


The three-dimensional intracellular network formed by the filamentous polymers comprising the cytoskeletal affects the way cells sense their extracellular environment and respond to stimuli. Because the cytoskeleton is viscoelastic, it provides a continuous mechanical coupling throughout the cell that changes as the cytoskeleton remodels. Such mechanical effects, based on network formation, can influence ion channel activity at the plasma membrane of cells and may conduct mechanical stresses from the cell membrane to internal organelles. As a result, both rapid responses such as changes in intracellular Ca2+ and slower responses such as gene transcription or the onset of apoptosis can be elicited or modulated by mechanical perturbations. In addition to mechanical features, the cytoskeleton also provides a large negatively charged surface on which many signaling molecules including protein and lipid kinases, phospholipases, and GTPases localize in response to activation of specific transmembrane receptors. The resulting spatial localization and concomitant change in enzymatic activity can alter the magnitude and limit the range of intracellular signaling events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytoskeleton / physiology*
  • Elasticity
  • Eukaryotic Cells / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Stress, Mechanical