Mechanical forces as information: Mechanical forces such as tension and compression act throughout growth and development of multicellular organisms. These forces not only affect the size and shape of the cells and tissues but are capable of modifying the expression of genes and the localization of molecular components within the cell, in the plasma membrane, and in the plant cell wall. The magnitude and direction of these physical forces change with cellular and tissue properties such as elasticity. Thus, mechanical forces and the mesoscopic fields a that emerge from their local action constitute important sources of positional information. Moreover, physical and biochemical processes interact in non-linear ways during tissue and organ growth in plants and animals. We will discuss how such mechanical forces are generated, transmitted, and sensed in these two lineages of multicellular organisms to yield long-range positional information. In order to do so we first outline a potentially common basis for studying patterning and mechanosensing that relies on the structural principle of tensegrity, and discuss how tensegral structures might arise in plants and animals. We then provide some examples of morphogenesis in which mechanical forces appear to act as positional information during development, offering a possible explanation for ubiquitous processes, such as the formation of periodic structures. Such examples, we argue, can be interpreted in terms of tensegral phenomena. Finally, we discuss the hypothesis of mechanically isotropic points as a potentially generic mechanism for the localization and maintenance of stem-cell niches in multicellular organisms. This comparative approach aims to help uncovering generic mechanisms of morphogenesis and thus reach a better understanding of the evolution and development of multicellular phenotypes, focusing on the role of physical forces in these processes.
a: The applied science of mesoscopic physics deals with the potential of building nanodevices. Thus, mesoscopic physics has a close connection to the fields of nanofabrication and nanotechnology.