About this Research Topic
The impact of microenvironmental biophysical parameters, such as rigidity and nanotopography, on cell behavior and differentiation, together with the involvement of cellular mechanobiology itself in cell signalling, have been underestimated for a long time compared to biochemical signaling events. A growing understanding of the phenomenon defined as mechanotransduction, i.e. the conversion of the biophysical information provided by the extracellular matrix into corresponding cellular responses via modulation of mechanosensitive cellular components and transcription factors, led to a significant reevaluation of the perception of these biomechanical aspects in the cell biology field.
Accordingly, in recent years it also became evident that developmental processes in neuronal cells are highly regulated by mechanosensing and -transduction. Soft substrates, for example, have been reported to promote neurogenic events in numerous publications. Furthermore, appropriate nanotopographical substrate features have been shown to possess the potential to not only control the direction of neurite/axon guidance but also to specifically foster neuron differentiation and maturation. Neuronal cells pass through drastic rearrangements of their morphology and cytoskeletal organisation while extending neurites, dendrites and axons or building up synpases during differentiation. In this process, the neuronal growth cones “fathom out” and interpret microenvironmental characteristics on a nanoscopic scale to coordinate and steer the outgrowth, predominantly via integrin-dependent point contacts. Moreover, the eventual synapse formation and plasticity throughout the generation of functional neural circuits depend strongly on cues from the extracellular matrix, as in perineuronal nets.
However, to date, many fundamental details of mechanotransductive signaling are still elusive due to the sheer complexity and versatility of the contributing biological structures, in particular the extracellular matrix, integrin adhesion complexes or the spatial organisation of the chromatin. In fact, sophisticated interdisciplinary research approaches at the interface between biology, physics and nanotechnological engineering are required to unravel profoundly the underlying mechanisms.
This Research Topic aims at collecting state-of-the-art information on the progress of the research touching the mentioned mechanobiological aspects in neuron development and maturation. Furthermore, this Topic also aspires to present timely interdisciplinary techniques and approaches, which are indispensable for the advancement of this field and potential biomedical applications based on the research in this context, such as enhanced neural circuits or interfaces.
Keywords: Mechanotransduction, neuronal development, neuronal maturation, integrin adhesion complex, biophysics
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