This chapter discusses how living cells use a tensegrity mechanism to sense, respond, and adapt to changes in their mechanical environment, including stresses applied at the cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interface. Mechanotransduction, the cellular response to mechanical stress, is governed by the cytoskeleton (CSK), a molecular network composed of different types of biopolymers that mechanically stabilizes the cell and actively generates contractile forces. Mechanical distortion of cell shape can impact many cell biological behaviors, including motility, contractility, growth, differentiation, and apoptosis. Mechanical distortion of cells produces these changes in cell function by inducing restructuring of the CSK and thereby impacting cellular biochemistry and gene expression through largely unknown mechanisms. Tensegrity architecture describes a class of discrete network structures that maintain their structural integrity because of prestress in their cable-like structural members. A unique property of tensegrity structures is that a mechanical stress may be transferred over long distances within the tensionally linked structural network, a phenomenon referred to as "action at a distance.".
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)