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Chapter 5

The Cytoskeleton

CHAPTER OUTLINE
Introduction
5.1 Introduction to the cytoskeleton
5.2 Intermediate filaments
5.3 Actin and tubulin gene families
5.4 Polymerization of actin and tubulin
5.5 Characteristics of actin and tubulin
5.6 Cytoskeletal accessory proteins
5.7 Role of actin filaments in directed intracellular movement
5.8 Cortical microtubules and cell expansion
5.9 Observing cytoskeletal dynamics
5.10 The cytoskeleton and signal transduction
5.11 The cytoskeleton and mitosis
5.12 The cytoskeleton and cytokinesis

Tobias I. Baskin

 

 

 

Despite the importance of membrane-bound organelles, as illustrated in the preceding chapters, the eukaryotic cell requires more than a set of defined compartments to function. Eukaryotic cells organize their components spatially, fixing some at defined locations in the cell, moving others to attain optimal positions. The contents of eukaryotic cells (and in some cases, the cells themselves) are mobile. Poking a cell with a fine microneedle stimulates its contents to move vigorously. In the first half of this century, these directed movements were considered the unmistakable indicator of life. Amusingly, the term coined to describe this essential cellular property was “irritability.”
      Spatial organization within the eukaryotic cell and directed movements of the cell or its contents are mediated by the cytoskeleton, a network of filamentous protein polymers that permeates the cytosol. The cytoskeleton comprises three major families of proteins: intermediate filaments, actin, and tubulin. In this chapter, each family and its principal functions will be described. Mitosis and cytokinesis will also be discussed, given the paramount role of the cytoskeleton in these processes. The cytoskeleton evolved before plants diverged from animals, and the main features of the cytoskeleton have been conserved in both. Thus, much of the information presented applies to both animals and plants. However, the plant cytoskeleton has evolved unique functions that differ from those in animals, as will also be highlighted in this chapter.


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