Tissue injury disrupts the mechanical homeostasis that underlies normal tissue architecture and function. The failure to resolve injury and restore homeostasis gives rise to progressive fibrosis that is accompanied by persistent alterations in the mechanical environment as a consequence of pathological matrix deposition and stiffening. This Review focuses on our rapidly growing understanding of the molecular mechanisms linking the altered mechanical environment in injury, repair, and fibrosis to cellular activation. In particular, our focus is on the mechanisms by which cells transduce mechanical signals, leading to transcriptional and epigenetic responses that underlie both transient and persistent alterations in cell state that contribute to fibrosis. Translation of these mechanobiological insights may enable new approaches to promote tissue repair and arrest or reverse fibrotic tissue remodeling.
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