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Review

Force-dependent cell signaling in stem cell differentiation

Evelyn KF Yim123 and Michael P Sheetz14*

Author Affiliations

1 Mechanobiology Institute Singapore, National University of Singapore, T-Lab, #05-01, 5A Engineering Drive 1, Singapore 117411, Singapore

2 Department of Bioengineering, National University of Singapore, EA-03-12, 9 Engineering Drive 1, Singapore 117576

3 Department of Surgery, National University of Singapore, NUHS Tower Block, Level 8, 1E Kent Ridge Road, Singapore 119228

4 Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University,1212 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10027, USA

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Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2012, 3:41  doi:10.1186/scrt132

Published: 31 October 2012

Abstract

Stem cells interact with biochemical and biophysical signals in their extracellular environment. The biophysical signals are transduced to the stem cells either through the underlying extracellular matrix or externally applied forces. Increasing evidence has shown that these biophysical cues such as substrate stiffness and topography can direct stem cell differentiation and determine the cell fate. The mechanism of the biophysically induced differentiation is not understood; however, several key signaling components have been demonstrated to be involved in the force-mediated differentiation. This review will focus on focal adhesions, cytoskeletal contractility, Rho GTPase signaling and nuclear regulation in connection with biophysically induced differentiation. We will briefly introduce the important components of the mechanotransduction machinery, and the recent developments in the study of force-dependent stem cell differentiation.