Living systems are fascinating sensing machines that outmatch all artificial machines. Our aim is to put a focus on the dynamics of mechanosensing in cellular systems through concepts and experimental approaches that have been developed during the past decades. By recognizing that a cellular system is not simply the intricate assembly of active and passive macromolecular actors but that it can also manifest scale-invariant and/or highly nonlinear global dynamics, biophysicists have opened a new domain of investigation of living systems. In this chapter, we review methods and techniques that have been implemented to decipher the cascade of temporal events which enable a cell to sense a mechanical stimulus and to elaborate a response to adapt or to counteract this perturbation. We mainly describe intrusive (mechanical probes) and nonintrusive (optical devices) experimental methods that have proved to be efficient for real-time characterization of stationary and nonstationary cellular dynamics. Finally, we discuss whether thermal fluctuations, which are inherent to living systems, are a source of coordination (e.g., synchronization) or randomization of the global dynamics of a cell.
Part of the book: Biosensors