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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the cytoskeleton
  • Compare the roles of microfilaments, intermediate filaments, and microtubules
  • Compare and contrast cilia and flagella
  • Summarize the differences among the components of prokaryotic cells, animal cells, and plant cells

If you were to remove all the organelles from a cell, would the plasma membrane and the cytoplasm be the only components left? No. Within the cytoplasm, there would still be ions and organic molecules, plus a network of protein fibers that help maintain the shape of the cell, secure some organelles in specific positions, allow cytoplasm and vesicles to move within the cell, and enable cells within multicellular organisms to move. Collectively, this network of protein fibers is known as the cytoskeleton    . There are three types of fibers within the cytoskeleton: microfilaments, intermediate filaments, and microtubules ( [link] ). Here, we will examine each.

Microfilaments line the inside of the plasma membrane, whereas microfilaments radiate out from the center of the cell. Intermediate filaments form a network throughout the cell that holds organelles in place.
Microfilaments thicken the cortex around the inner edge of a cell; like rubber bands, they resist tension. Microtubules are found in the interior of the cell where they maintain cell shape by resisting compressive forces. Intermediate filaments are found throughout the cell and hold organelles in place.

Microfilaments

Of the three types of protein fibers in the cytoskeleton, microfilaments are the narrowest. They function in cellular movement, have a diameter of about 7 nm, and are made of two intertwined strands of a globular protein called actin ( [link] ). For this reason, microfilaments are also known as actin filaments.

This illustration shows two actin filaments wound together. Each actin filament is composed of many actin subunits connected together to form a chain.
Microfilaments are made of two intertwined strands of actin.

Actin is powered by ATP to assemble its filamentous form, which serves as a track for the movement of a motor protein called myosin. This enables actin to engage in cellular events requiring motion, such as cell division in animal cells and cytoplasmic streaming, which is the circular movement of the cell cytoplasm in plant cells. Actin and myosin are plentiful in muscle cells. When your actin and myosin filaments slide past each other, your muscles contract.

Microfilaments also provide some rigidity and shape to the cell. They can depolymerize (disassemble) and reform quickly, thus enabling a cell to change its shape and move. White blood cells (your body’s infection-fighting cells) make good use of this ability. They can move to the site of an infection and phagocytize the pathogen.

To see an example of a white blood cell in action, click here and watch a short time-lapse video of the cell capturing two bacteria. It engulfs one and then moves on to the other.

Intermediate filaments

Intermediate filaments are made of several strands of fibrous proteins that are wound together ( [link] ). These elements of the cytoskeleton get their name from the fact that their diameter, 8 to 10 nm, is between those of microfilaments and microtubules.

This illustration shows 10 intermediate filament fibers bundled together.
Intermediate filaments consist of several intertwined strands of fibrous proteins.

Intermediate filaments have no role in cell movement. Their function is purely structural. They bear tension, thus maintaining the shape of the cell, and anchor the nucleus and other organelles in place. [link] shows how intermediate filaments create a supportive scaffolding inside the cell.

Questions & Answers

state any one specialized animal cell and it's function
Pascal Reply
sperm cell: Fertilization
Tshering
Can DNA and RNA be praticalized
Oyewale Reply
you can make models of them and show how they replicate
Oswald
what is dentition
Tisa Reply
Study of teeths and their functions
Stanisla
what are the function
Tisa
it's not teeths. teeth is plural as well as singular noun. the function of the teeth is to cut and grind food for easier swallowing and for increasing the surface area if the fish as the substrate in which digestive enzymes work
Oswald
dentition is not the study of teeth but the arrangement of teeth in the mouth of species or individuals
Oswald
what are the two types of teeth
Tisa
Function of probosis
Adeola Reply
why do we study biology?
SYDNEY Reply
where biology began
Alhaji
What are chromesome
Talkmore Reply
condensed DNA wrapped with histone
Elias
what is chromosome?
Royd Reply
How can a person who has been in the vascular disease repairs his or her DNA
Rabson Reply
i need its explanation sir..pls provid na...🙁
Shaf Reply
Of wat
John
explanation for wat
Christian
Of war na so dat I can provide
John
Is d process which food is converted into substance dat can be utilize by d body
John
the meaning of disgestion
Charity Reply
because they are considered to be proteins ..lipids,fats, and nucleic acids
Geeta Reply
what is osmosis
Festus Reply
Is the movement of solvent molecules from the region of a higher concentration to the region of lower concentration
Muhammad
It is the movement of solvent from the region of lower concentration to the region of higher concentration through a semi-permeable membrane.
Helen
and diffusion
Prudent
it is the movement of water molecules fro region of higher conc. to the region of lower conc.thro a semi-permeable membrane.
Chansa
Diffusion is the movement of solute molecules from a region of higher concentration to a region of lower concentration.
Quartey
osmosis is the movement of water molecule from the region higher water potential to a region of lower water potential
Pascal
what is the function of Nerve cell?
Pascal
Hello Everyone!! Any good study app recommendations?
HONNEA Reply
For which subject
Sinyinza
Biology:)
HONNEA
Hello everyone!! I want to be sure does exoskeleton consist of endoskeleton? plz help right nw
Sinyinza
Try this one and also biology Olevels
Sinyinza
Thanks!
HONNEA
Hey, I'm completely new to biology. I'm computer science graduate but I want to learn Neuroscience from scratch. So I have decided to study this book as my entry point to the field. is this book good for a complete beginner in the field?
Adeetya Reply
Yes it can help since u ar a beginner
Sinyinza
Thanks for the clarification.
Adeetya
WhAt are the differences between prokaryotic cell and eukaryotic cell
oluwapelumi Reply
Prokaryotic cell is a single celled organism that do not have membrane -bound nuclei.
Quartey
prokaryotes also lack other cell organelles whereas eukaryotes possess an organized nucleus with nuclear envelope and also they have complex locomotory and cytoskeletal structures
Pepper
genetic material is found in cytoplasm in prokaryotic cell while in eukaryotes genetic material is found in nucleus
shams
What cells are the basic unit of life?
Agyeman

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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