The field of molecular cell biology has experienced enormous advances over the last century by reducing the complexity of living cells into simpler molecular components and binding interactions that are amenable to rigorous biochemical analysis. However, as our tools become more powerful, there is a tendency to define mechanisms by what we can measure. The field is currently dominated by efforts to identify the key molecules and sequences that mediate the function of critical receptors, signal transducers, and molecular switches. Unfortunately, these conventional experimental approaches ignore the importance of supramolecular control mechanisms that play a critical role in cellular regulation. Thus, the significance of individual molecular constituents cannot be fully understood when studied in isolation because their function may vary depending on their context within the structural complexity of the living cell. These higher-order regulatory mechanisms are based on the cell's use of a form of solid-state biochemistry in which molecular components that mediate biochemical processing and signal transduction are immobilized on insoluble cytoskeletal scaffolds in the cytoplasm and nucleus. Key to the understanding of this form of cellular regulation is the realization that chemistry is structure and hence, recognition of the the importance of architecture and mechanics for signal integration and biochemical control. Recent work that has unified chemical and mechanical signaling pathways provides a glimpse of how this form of higher-order cellular control may function and where paths may lie in the future.
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