Mechanobiology and Developmental Control

Published in: Annual Review of Cell & Development Biology 2013 Edition

Morphogenesis is the remarkable process by which cells self-assemble into complex tissues and organs that exhibit specialized form and function during embryological development. Many of the genes and chemical cues that mediate tissue and organ formation have been identified; however, these signals alone are not sufficient to explain how tissues and organs are constructed that exhibit their unique material properties and three-dimensional forms. Here, we review work that has revealed the central role that physical forces and extracellular matrix mechanics play in the control of cell fate switching, pattern formation, and tissue development in the embryo and how these same mechanical signals contribute to tissue homeostasis and developmental control throughout adult life.