With the term 'mechano-transduction' it is intended the ability of cells to sense and respond to mechanical forces by activating intracellular signal transduction pathways and the relative phenotypic adaptation. While a known role of mechanical stimuli has been acknowledged for developmental biology processes and morphogenesis in various organs, the response of cells to mechanical cues is now also emerging as a major pathophysiology determinant.
Cells of the cardiovascular system are typically exposed to a variety of mechanical stimuli ranging from compression to strain and flow (shear) stress. In addition, these cells can also translate subtle changes in biophysical characteristics of the surrounding matrix, such as the stiffness, into intracellular activation cascades with consequent evolution toward pro-inflammatory/pro-fibrotic phenotypes.
Since cellular mechanotransduction has a potential readout on long-lasting modifications of the chromatin, exposure of the cells to mechanically altered environments may have similar persisting consequences to those of metabolic dysfunctions or chronic inflammation.
In the present review, the Authors highlight the roles of mechanical forces on the control of cardiovascular formation during embryogenesis, and in the development and pathogenesis of the cardiovascular system.