is the name given to the skeleton of the cell.

The cytoskeleton gives a cell it’s shape and holds it together(and the organelles in it), just like the skeleton in your body holds you in shape. Without it, you would just be a pile of mush; so would be the cell.

Unlike the illustrations in many textbooks in which the organelles are shown to be freely floating in the cytoplasm, they are held together by the cytoskeleton which is not usually shown.

However, the cytoskeleton is not made up of the rigid bones our skeleton is made of.

  • It’s a network of ultra thin tubes and protein fibres extending throughout the cytoplasm.

The cytoskeleton is a dynamic structure.

  • It can change its shape, size and can move around inside the cell. Consequently, the shape of the cell can also change as it squeezes in and out of capillaries, or eats other cells(by endocytosis) like white blood cells eat , or when it divides into two new cells.

This dynamic property of the skeleton enables the cell to carry out its functions according to its needs. This is crucial for the cell’s survival.

  • The cytoskeleton is responsible for the movement of vesicles such as Golgi vesicles inside the cell. Just like it is responsible for the movement of other organelles like mitochondria and centrioles(during cell division) inside the cytoplasm.

The cytoskeleton also maintains the movement and shape of cilia and flagella. It is responsible for muscle contraction too.

The cytoskeleton has three major components:

  1. Microfilaments
  2. Intermediate filaments
  3. Microtubules

This image shows how each of the three components carry out their functions and collectively make up the cytoskeleton:


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