Biophysical Reviews

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 701–720 | Cite as

Mechanotransduction in neuronal cell development and functioning

  • Matteo Chighizola
  • Tania Dini
  • Cristina Lenardi
  • Paolo Milani
  • Alessandro Podestà
  • Carsten SchulteEmail author


Although many details remain still elusive, it became increasingly evident in recent years that mechanosensing of microenvironmental biophysical cues and subsequent mechanotransduction are strongly involved in the regulation of neuronal cell development and functioning. This review gives an overview about the current understanding of brain and neuronal cell mechanobiology and how it impacts on neurogenesis, neuronal migration, differentiation, and maturation. We will focus particularly on the events in the cell/microenvironment interface and the decisive extracellular matrix (ECM) parameters (i.e. rigidity and nanometric spatial organisation of adhesion sites) that modulate integrin adhesion complex-based mechanosensing and mechanotransductive signalling. It will also be outlined how biomaterial approaches mimicking essential ECM features help to understand these processes and how they can be used to control and guide neuronal cell behaviour by providing appropriate biophysical cues. In addition, principal biophysical methods will be highlighted that have been crucial for the study of neuronal mechanobiology.


Mechanobiology Biophysics Neuronal differentiation Biomaterials Bioengineering 


Funding information

This project has received funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 812772 (Phys2BioMed) and under the FET Open grant agreement no. 801126 (EDIT).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics (IUPAB) and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Interdisciplinary Centre for Nanostructured Materials and Interfaces (C.I.Ma.I.Na.) and Department of Physics ``Aldo Pontremoli’’Università degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly

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