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FASEB J. 1999;13 Suppl:S3-15.

How cells (might) sense microgravity.

Author information

1
Departments of Pathology & Surgery, Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA. ingber@a1.tch.harvard.edu
2
Harvard Med Sch, Boston, MA

Abstract

This article is a summary of a lecture presented at an ESA/NASA Workshop on Cell and Molecular Biology Research in Space that convened in Leuven, Belgium, in June 1998. Recent studies are reviewed which suggest that cells may sense mechanical stresses, including those due to gravity, through changes in the balance of forces that are transmitted across transmembrane adhesion receptors that link the cytoskeleton to the extracellular matrix and to other cells (e.g., integrins, cadherins, selectins). The mechanism by which these mechanical signals are transduced and converted into a biochemical response appears to be based, in part, on the finding that living cells use a tension-dependent form of architecture, known as tensegrity, to organize and stabilize their cytoskeleton. Because of tensegrity, the cellular response to stress differs depending on the level of pre-stress (pre-existing tension) in the cytoskeleton and it involves all three cytoskeletal filament systems as well as nuclear scaffolds. Recent studies confirm that alterations in the cellular force balance can influence intracellular biochemistry within focal adhesion complexes that form at the site of integrin binding as well as gene expression in the nucleus. These results suggest that gravity sensation may not result from direct activation of any single gravioreceptor molecule. Instead, gravitational forces may be experienced by individual cells in the living organism as a result of stress-dependent changes in cell, tissue, or organ structure that, in turn, alter extracellular matrix mechanics, cell shape, cytoskeletal organization, or internal pre-stress in the cell-tissue matrix.--Ingber, D. How cells (might) sense microgravity.

PMID:
10352140
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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