Welcome to Day One of the Mechanobiology Thematic Meeting; Morning Sessions Recap

Having been to several BPS annual meetings, this is rather different, where one can attend all the talks and is spared the horror of having to choose one talk over the other. It started out with as much energy as the coinciding US presidential debate.

Michael Sheetz introduced sarcomeric units in non-muscle cells. They use fibroblast spreading on beautiful micropillar arrays. As cells spread, at the leading edge distinct contractile pairs are generated where the pillars were observed to move towards each other in a stepwise fashion. Cells pinch the substrate to sense its rigidity and mount an appropriate mechanical response. This is assisted by receptor tyrosine kinases such as Axl, ROR2, and EGFR. These receptors act in a ligand-independent manner as mechanoenzymes which help cells to sense the substrates. For example, Axl does it through phosphorylation of tropomyosin(required for generation of sarcomeric units). This is absolutely fantastic — where a cell uses its existing kinases for purposes other than those conventionally studied. We definitely need to get around the norms of conventional classification and think of these as tools within the cell that can be used and reused in different ways.


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