Mechanical signals are recently emerging as a crucial factor for guiding biological systems. Cell proliferation, differentiation and gene expression have been shown to depend on external forces acting on the cell . Biological systems sense and propagate mechanical stimuli by means of molecular force sensors, which switch their function depending on the mechanical input signal. Proteins, the major player in this mechanotransduction, have been designed to specifically respond to forces on the molecular scale, the concerted action of which results on the biomechanics on the macroscale. Prime examples are muscle fibers, cell adhesion sites, proteins in blood flow, or biomaterials like silk. Bottom-up or top-down approaches, which span multiple scales, are required to make quantitative predictions on elasticity and plasticity, force transduction, fracture, and the down-stream biochemical events.
Atomistic simulation is a tool of choice to relate microscopic and macroscopic properties of biomolecules. The main obstacle to the establishment of simulation as a general predictive tool for the behavior of biomacromolecules is the large size of the systems of interest and the large range of relevant timescales. One other obstacle is the lack of time and space resolution of experimental measurements to benchmark simulations or test theoretical predictions. The development of single molecule experimental techniques, as well as the use of well-defined perturbations such as force, have provided a unique chance to bridge the gap between experiment atomistic simulation [2-8].
Only recently, computational approaches are emerging that connect the response of individual proteins as for example revealed by molecular dynamics simulations to the large-scale biomechanics of protein assemblies and biosystems by continuum mechanics techniques or others. A concerted effort of material scientists, physicists, and biologists is needed to tackle the challenge of how biosystems evolved for well-defined responses to force. Bringing these experts together to inspect current developments and envision new ones is the aim of this workshop.