Collagen, stiffness, and adhesion: The evolutionary basis of vertebrate mechanobiology

Vivian W. Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The emergence of collagen I in vertebrates resulted in a dramatic increase in the stiffness of the extracellular environment, supporting long-range force propagation and the development of low-compliant tissues necessary for the development of vertebrate traits including pressurized circulation and renal filtration. Vertebrates have also evolved integrins that can bind to collagens, resulting in the generation of higher tension and more efficient force transmission in the extracellular matrix. The stiffer environment provides an opportunity for the vertebrates to create new structures such as the stress fibers, new cell types such as endothelial cells, new developmental processes such as neural crest delamination, and new tissue organizations such as the blood-brain barrier. Molecular players found only in vertebrates allow the modification of conserved mechanisms as well as the design of novel strategies that can better serve the physiological needs of the vertebrates. These innovations collectively contribute to novel morphogenetic behaviors and unprecedented increases in the complexities of tissue mechanics and functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1823-1834
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular biology of the cell
Issue number17
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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