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The cytoskeleton is the network of fibers that organize and structure organelles within the cell. Its primary job is to give structural support to organelles. It also helps move substances within the cell. Its main components are microfilaments, intermediate filaments, and microtubules.

Image of stained cytoskeleton in a cell under a microscope

Cytoskeleton In Different Cells

The cytoskeleton is especially important to the functions of animal cells. It plays an essential role in giving the animal cell its structure. Animal cells, unlike plant cells, do not have a cell wall to maintain their shape.
Cytoskeleton plays an important role in all eukaryotic cells, which are cells containing a nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles. It is like the skeleton to humans, helping to keep all the squishy organs in place. The structure allows vesicles, lysosomes, and nutrients to move efficiently throughout the cell.

Cytoskeleton Function

The cytoskeleton’s main function is to give the cell its shape, but that is not its only job. It also allows the cell to move around, and it transports substances throughout the cell’s interior.

Once a substance passes through the cell membrane, it is transported within the cell by the cytoskeleton’s filaments. These filaments are chains of proteins, and they vary in size.  Microtubules are the largest filaments. Intermediate filaments are mid-sized.  Microfilaments are the smallest.
Image of microtubules, part of the cytoskeleton

Microtubules are the largest of the fibers that make up the cytoskeleton

Each type of filament aids in specific processes. Let’s break down the jobs of each of these filaments:
  • Microfilaments assist the cell in cytokinesis (when it divides into two daughter cells). Microfilaments also aid in cell mobility.
  • Intermediate filaments help to give the cell its shape.
  • Microtubules make up flagella, which gives the cell the ability to move. Microtubules are also very important in cell division. They form the spindle fibers that pull apart the chromosomes.
Written by: Anna Hylen