The importance of water and hydraulic pressure in cell dynamics

Yizeng Li, Konstantinos Konstantopoulos, Runchen Zhao, Yoichiro Mori, Sean X. Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


All mammalian cells live in the aqueous medium, yet for many cell biologists, water is a passive arena in which proteins are the leading players that carry out essential biological functions. Recent studies, as well as decades of previous work, have accumulated evidence to show that this is not the complete picture. Active fluxes of water and solutes of water can play essential roles during cell shape changes, cell motility and tissue function, and can generate significant mechanical forces. Moreover, the extracellular resistance to water flow, known as the hydraulic resistance, and external hydraulic pressures are important mechanical modulators of cell polarization and motility. For the cell to maintain a consistent chemical environment in the cytoplasm, there must exist an intricate molecular system that actively controls the cell water content as well as the cytoplasmic ionic content. This system is difficult to study and poorly understood, but ramifications of which may impact all aspects of cell biology from growth to metabolism to development. In this Review, we describe how mammalian cells maintain the cytoplasmic water content and how water flows across the cell surface to drive cell movement. The roles of mechanical forces and hydraulic pressure during water movement are explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjcs240341
JournalJournal of cell science
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Cell size regulation
  • Hydraulic pressure
  • Hydraulic resistance
  • Ion homeostasis
  • Osmotic engine model
  • Osmotic pressure
  • Two-phase model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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