Research Topic

Mechanosensing at Biointerfaces

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All living cells are under the influence of their surrounding environments. It is well known that cell survival and growth are largely affected by growth factors and cytokines present in the environment. In addition to such biochemical signals, mechanical cues acting on cells, including air and osmotic ...

All living cells are under the influence of their surrounding environments. It is well known that cell survival and growth are largely affected by growth factors and cytokines present in the environment. In addition to such biochemical signals, mechanical cues acting on cells, including air and osmotic pressure, gravity, fluid shear, stiffness of the extracellular substrate and forces exerted from neighboring cells, also influence cell behaviors. For example, endothelial cells forming the inner wall of an artery suffer cyclic strain and fluid shear caused by heartbeat and blood flow, which regulate cell morphology, gene expression and cytokine secretion. Furthermore, it has been shown that stiffness of the extracellular substrate dictates differentiation lineage of stem cells.

Biochemical cues are sensed by cells typically through binding of chemical agents to specific receptors. Similarly, to respond to mechanical cues, cells must possess sensors for mechanical cues (so called 'mechanosensors'). Cells establish contacts with their mechanical surroundings via various cellular components, including the plasma membrane, cell-substrate adhesion sites and cell-cell adhesion sites. Since mechanical stimuli impacting on a cell primarily act on these cell-environment interfaces, it is conceivable that most mechanosensors may function within the interfacial regions of a cell. On the other hand, cellular components composing the cell-environment interfaces are physically connected to intracellular structures such as the cytoskeletal network and the nucleus. Therefore, mechanical inputs at the cell-environment interfaces are conveyed to the intracellular structures, raising a possibility that these intracellular structures may also work in sensing mechanical signals.

It is also noteworthy that the cell cytoskeleton generates both protrusive and contractile forces, which are transmitted to the cell-environment interfaces. These intracellularly generated forces would also be sensed by mechanosensors within the interface regions and thus could potentially modulate cellular functions.

The Research Topic 'Mechanosensing at Biointerfaces' focuses on molecular and biophysical mechanisms of how cells sense mechanical stimuli at the interfaces between the cells and their surrounding environment. Accumulating evidence shows that cellular responses against mechanical cues are critical for homeostatic functions of cells and tissues under spatiotemporally differing mechanical environments, and provides insight into close relationship between improper mechano-responses of cells and several severe diseases, including heart failure, cerebral stroke and cancer. Thus, this Research Topic is expected to contribute to a better understanding of a broad range of physiological and pathological phenomena in cells and tissues originating from various extracellular and intracellular mechanical stimuli acting at biointerfaces.

This Research Topic intends to collect together the most recent advancements in the field to expand our understanding of the roles and the mechanisms of mechanosensing at biointerfaces. We encourage all types of submissions of original research and review papers on this topic, as well as methods and opinions from a wide variety of fields including biophysics, cell/molecular biology, physiology as well as material-, engineering- and medical-sciences.


Keywords: Mechanosensing, Focal adhesion, Adherens junction, Mechanosensitive channel, Cytoskeleton


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