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The Cytoskeleton

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The Cytoskeleton

Neuronal Cytoskeleton

© Mark Goldberg/Used With Permission
In Journey into the Cell, we looked at the structure of the two major types of cells: prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Now we turn our attention to the "infrastructure" of a eukaryotic cell, the cytoskeleton.

What Is The Cytoskeleton?

The cytoskeleton is a network of fibers throughout the cell's cytoplasm that helps the cell maintain its shape and gives support to the cell.

A variety of cellular organelles are held in place by the cytoskeleton.

Cytoskeleton: Distinguishing Characteristics

The cytoskeleton is composed of at least three different types of fibers: microtubules, microfilaments and intermediate filaments.

These types are distinguished by their size with microtubules being the thickest and microfilaments being the thinnest.
  • Microtubules are hollow rods functioning primarily to help support and shape the cell and as "routes" along which organelles can move. Microtubules are typically found in all eukaryotic cells.

  • Microfilaments or actin filaments are solid rods and are active in muscle contraction. Microfilaments are particularly prevalent in muscle cells but similar to microtubules, they are also typically found in all eukaryotic cells.

  • Intermediate filaments can be abundant in many cells and provide support for microfilaments and microtubules by holding them in place.
In addition to providing support for the cell, the cytoskeleton is also involved in cellular motility and in moving vesicles within a cell, as well as assisting in the formation of food vacuoles in the cell.

Journey into the Cell

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