An integrative review of mechanotransduction in endothelial, epithelial (renal) and dendritic cells (osteocytes)

Sheldon Weinbaum, Yi Duan, Mia M. Thi, Lidan You

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


In this review we will examine from a biomechanical and ultrastructural viewpoint how the cytoskeletal specialization of three basic cell types, endothelial cells (ECs), epithelial cells (renal tubule) and dendritic cells (osteocytes), enables the mechano-sensing of fluid flow in both their native in vivo environment and in culture, and the downstream signaling that is initiated at the molecular level in response to fluid flow. These cellular responses will be discussed in terms of basic mysteries and paradoxes encountered by each cell type. In ECs fluid shear stress (FSS) is nearly entirely attenuated by the endothelial glycocalyx that covers their apical membrane and yet FSS is communicated to both intracellular and junctional molecular components in activating a wide variety of signaling pathways. The same is true in proximal tubule (PT) cells where a dense brush border of microvilli covers the apical surface and the flow at the apical membrane is negligible. A four decade old unexplained mystery is the ability of PT epithelia to reliably reabsorb 60% of the flow entering the tubule regardless of the glomerular filtration rate. In the cortical collecting duct (CCD) the flow rates are so low that a special sensing apparatus, a primary cilia is needed to detect very small variations in tubular flow. In bone it has been a century old mystery as to how osteocytes embedded in a stiff mineralized tissue are able to sense miniscule whole tissue strains that are far smaller than the cellular level strains required to activate osteocytes in vitro.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-537
Number of pages28
JournalCellular and Molecular Bioengineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Actin cortical web
  • Actin filament bundles
  • Bone cell processes
  • Brush border microvilli
  • Cortical collecting duct
  • Endothelial glycocalyx
  • Integrin attachments
  • Lacunar-canalicular system
  • Proximal tubule

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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