Finding the weakest link-exploring integrin-mediated mechanical molecular pathways

Pere Roca-Cusachs, Thomas Iskratsch, Michael P. Sheetz

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

167 Scopus citations


From the extracellular matrix to the cytoskeleton, a network of molecular links connects cells to their environment. Molecules in this network transmit and detect mechanical forces, which subsequently determine cell behavior and fate. Here, we reconstruct the mechanical pathway followed by these forces. From matrix proteins to actin through integrins and adaptor proteins, we review how forces affect the lifetime of bonds and stretch or alter the conformation of proteins, and how these mechanical changes are converted into biochemical signals in mechanotransduction events. We evaluate which of the proteins in the network can participate in mechanotransduction and which are simply responsible for transmitting forces in a dynamic network. Besides their individual properties, we also analyze how the mechanical responses of a protein are determined by their serial connections from the matrix to actin, their parallel connections in integrin clusters and by the rate at which force is applied to them. All these define mechanical molecular pathways in cells, which are emerging as key regulators of cell function alongside better studied biochemical pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3025-3038
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell adhesion
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Mechanotransduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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