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Mechanical Forces Reshape Differentiation Cues That Guide Cardiomyogenesis


Soluble morphogen gradients have long been studied in the context of heart specification and patterning. However, recent data have begun to challenge the notion that long-standing in vivo observations are driven solely by these gradients alone. Evidence from multiple biological models, from stem cells to ex vivo biophysical assays, now supports a role for mechanical forces in not only modulating cell behavior but also inducing it de novo in a process termed mechanotransduction. Structural proteins that connect the cell to its niche, for example, integrins and cadherins, and that couple to other growth factor receptors, either directly or indirectly, seem to mediate these changes, although specific mechanistic details are still being elucidated. In this review, we summarize how the wingless (Wnt), transforming growth factor-β, and bone morphogenetic protein signaling pathways affect cardiomyogenesis and then highlight the interplay between each pathway and mechanical forces. In addition, we will outline the role of integrins and cadherins during cardiac development. For each, we will describe how the interplay could change multiple processes during cardiomyogenesis, including the specification of undifferentiated cells, the establishment of heart patterns to accomplish tube and chamber formation, or the maturation of myocytes in the fully formed heart.

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