The cytoskeleton is a kind of network of fibers that is part of the scaffolding of all eukaryotic cells.

It is often called the “backbone” of the cell.

While it was previously thought that only eukaryotic cells had cytoskeletons, new research is showing that some homologues of the major proteins are found in prokaryotes.

The cytoskeleton gives the cell organelles structure and organization, as well as anchoring the cell.

It is made up of protein and has the job of being both the structure and the ability to help move substances around inside the cell.

Cytoskeletons have three main parts to them: microfilaments, intermediate filaments, and microtubules.

Not all Cytoskeletons are Alike

While all cells have a cytoskeleton, they perform different jobs in different cell types.

Plant-like cells have a cell wall that helps to keep them rigid and sturdy, however, animal cells don’t have a cell wall to help them to keep their shape.

The cytoskeleton is an important factor for all eukaryotic cells (those that have a nucleus and other organelles with membranes), as it plays the same role as our own skeletons do.

Without our skeletons we would simply be squishy bags of water and chemicals. The cytoskeleton structure enables lysosomes, vesicles, and nutrients to be efficiently moved through the cell.

Cytoskeleton has More than One Job

You might think being the main sturdy structure for a cell is enough, but cytoskeletons have multiple functions.

It gives the cell the ability to be mobile, and it also moves substances throughout the inside of the cell. It does this through the use of the cytoskeleton filaments.

Once any substance comes through the cell membrane, the filaments move the materials. The filaments are varying sizes and are made up of protein chains.

The largest of these filaments is the microtubules. The smallest filaments are microfilaments (also known as actin filaments), and the medium-sized filaments are Intermediate filaments.

Each filament type has a specific purpose:

  • Microfilaments (the smallest filament) helps the cell when it is dividing itself into two daughter cells. This is known as “cytokinesis.” Microfilaments are also used in the mobility of the cell. These are mostly found just beneath the plasma membrane.
  • Intermediate filaments (the mid-sized filaments) make sure that the cell can maintain its shape. Some of the different intermediate filaments are made up of keratin (which is the same substance found in hair, nails, and skin cells.
  • Microtubules (the largest filaments) participate in cell division, form the spindle fibers that pull chromosomes apart, and make up the flagella of the cell which helps it to move around. The microtubule is very strong as it can receive a lot of stress and still maintain its shape.

The cytoskeleton is also involved in the growth of cells in both differentiation and division. They are critical for the form, integrity, and resistance of the cell.

Scientists believe that the cytoskeleton has provided a kind of foundation for every living cell.

Facts about Cytoskeletons

  • Microfilaments help us flex our muscles.
  • Cytoskeleton is involved in cell division cycle of meiosis and mitosis.
  • Some medication can alter the function of microtubules.
  • Scientists believe that some diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease is due to the malfunction of cytoskeletal components.
  • Microfilaments are 6 nm (nanometers) in diameter
  • Some microfilaments can produce pseudopods (false feet) for movement.

Interesting Facts about Biology

  • Ants can’t chew their food. Instead they move their jaws sideways in a scissor-like motion to extract the food juices.
  • Messages travel from the human brain through the nerves at up to 200 mph
  • When you become an adult most of your body stops growing except your ears and nose.
  • There are around 300 million alveoli in the human lung.
  • Your tongue is a good indicator of your overall health. When you are sick, your tongue can change color and even become dry.
  • The smallest flower in the world is the Wolffia. An entire bouquet of these flowers would fit on the head of a push pin.

Cytoskeleton Quiz

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