What does cytoskeleton mean?

What is Cytoskeleton

The cytoskeleton is a cellular structure , a kind of network, made up of a set of three different types of protein filaments . They are: microtubules, intermediate filaments and microfilaments.

Like the human body, cells have a series of structures responsible for performing various functions .
These structures are called organelles and must be arranged in specific places. For cells to function properly, organelles must be in the intracellular space .

In addition, cells must be able to change their shape and rearrange their internal components after cell division.
Such functions are performed in eukaryotic cells by a complex network of filaments called the cytoskeleton .
The cytoskeleton is characterized by a network of filamentous proteins produced by centrioles and is found throughout the cell cytoplasmic region and within the nucleus.


Cytoskeleton Function

  • They are the fibers of the achromatic spindle during the processes of cell division;
  • It produces tabs and flagella , structures responsible for some cellular processes such as movement;
  • It produces structures called stereocilia, structures similar to eyelashes, but with the function of eliminating impurities from the respiratory system;
  • Carries out the transport of some substances from one region of the cell to another;
  • Centrioles , cytoskeleton-producing organelles, are considered nonmembranous cell organelles due to their noncellular membrane constitution.

Cytoskeleton Structure


In eukaryotic cells, the cytoskeleton is made up of a series of complex protein filaments that consist of protein polymerization.
In eukaryotes, the main components of the cytoskeleton are the microfilaments , intermediate filaments, and microtubules.


Prokaryotes have different protein filaments than eukaryotes, but with similar functions.
In bacterial cells we find a tubulin-like filament called FtsZ. In addition, they also have actin-like filaments called MreB and Mbl.

While eukaryotic cells are typically complex and large in diameter , prokaryotic cells are small and assume a more modest morphology.

For a long time, biologists believed that the absence of a cytoskeleton was the reason for such simplicity in cell organization.
This assumption was put to the test in 1990 with the discovery of a protein filament in bacterial and archaebacterial cells.

How is the cytoskeleton composed?

For the composition of the cytoskeleton different types of protein filaments interact. Like microtubules , microfilaments , and intermediate filaments .


They are long filaments, made up of a protein called tubulin . Its diameter is around 25 nanometers and its main characteristic is rigidity .
Microtubules always have one end connected to a microtubule-organizing center .


Also known as actin filaments , they are polymers of two actin protein chains. They have the characteristic of being flexible and have a diameter that ranges between 5 and 9 nanometers.
They are found throughout the cell, but are present in greater numbers in the inner region near the plasma membrane.

Intermediate Filaments

They are wire-like fibers with a diameter of 10 nanometers. They are composed of diversified proteins and are found in large quantities in the inner central region.
In other cases, we have the formation of networks that extend into the cytoplasm, which confers mechanical resistance to the cells.
They can be found constituting cell junctions in epithelial tissue.

Cytoskeleton Diseases

Among the diseases related to the cytoskeleton we can mention Kartagener syndrome, which is a rare genetic disease that presents chronic sinusitis as its main symptom.
We can also mention Dechenne muscular dystrophy , which is also a genetic trait, but related to the X chromosome .

In addition to those already mentioned, a type of anemia called sickle cell anemia also occurs due to malformation of the cytoskeleton , causing the shape of hemoglobin to be altered and compromising oxygen transport.

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