Cytoskeletal prestress: The cellular hallmark in mechanobiology and mechanomedicine

Farhan Chowdhury, Bo Huang, Ning Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Increasing evidence demonstrates that mechanical forces, in addition to soluble molecules, impact cell and tissue functions in physiology and diseases. How living cells integrate mechanical signals to perform appropriate biological functions is an area of intense investigation. Here, we review the evidence of the central role of cytoskeletal prestress in mechanotransduction and mechanobiology. Elevating cytoskeletal prestress increases cell stiffness and reinforces cell stiffening, facilitates long-range cytoplasmic mechanotransduction via integrins, enables direct chromatin stretching and rapid gene expression, spurs embryonic development and stem cell differentiation, and boosts immune cell activation and killing of tumor cells whereas lowering cytoskeletal prestress maintains embryonic stem cell pluripotency, promotes tumorigenesis and metastasis of stem cell-like malignant tumor-repopulating cells, and elevates drug delivery efficiency of soft-tumor-cell-derived microparticles. The overwhelming evidence suggests that the cytoskeletal prestress is the governing principle and the cellular hallmark in mechanobiology. The application of mechanobiology to medicine (mechanomedicine) is rapidly emerging and may help advance human health and improve diagnostics, treatment, and therapeutics of diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-276
Number of pages28
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • cell softness
  • extracellular vesicles
  • immune cells
  • stem cells
  • substrate stiffness
  • tumor metastasis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Cell Biology


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