Mechanical forces in cell monolayers



Chen T, Saw TB, Mège RM, Ladoux B



Journal of Cell Science

2018 December 20


n various physiological processes, the cell collective is organized in a monolayer, such as seen in a simple epithelium. The advances in the understanding of mechanical behavior of the monolayer and its underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms will help to elucidate the properties of cell collectives. In this Review, we discuss recent in vitro studies on monolayer mechanics and their implications on collective dynamics, regulation of monolayer mechanics by physical confinement and geometrical cues and the effect of tissue mechanics on biological processes, such as cell division and extrusion. In particular, we focus on the active nematic property of cell monolayers and the emerging approach to view biological systems in the light of liquid crystal theory. We also highlight the mechanosensing and mechanotransduction mechanisms at the sub-cellular and molecular level that are mediated by the contractile actomyosin cytoskeleton and cell-cell adhesion proteins, such as E-cadherin and α-catenin. To conclude, we argue that, in order to have a holistic understanding of the cellular response to biophysical environments, interdisciplinary approaches and multiple techniques – from large-scale traction force measurements to molecular force protein sensors – must be employed.