Cytoskeleton

Cytoskeleton

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The cytoskeleton is a cellular "scaffolding
Scaffolding
Scaffolding is a temporary structure used to support people and material in the construction or repair of buildings and other large structures. It is usually a modular system of metal pipes or tubes, although it can be from other materials...

" or "skeleton
Skeleton
The skeleton is the body part that forms the supporting structure of an organism. There are two different skeletal types: the exoskeleton, which is the stable outer shell of an organism, and the endoskeleton, which forms the support structure inside the body.In a figurative sense, skeleton can...

" contained within a cell
Cell (biology)
The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms. It is the smallest unit of life that is classified as a living thing, and is often called the building block of life. The Alberts text discusses how the "cellular building blocks" move to shape developing embryos....

's cytoplasm
Cytoplasm
The cytoplasm is a small gel-like substance residing between the cell membrane holding all the cell's internal sub-structures , except for the nucleus. All the contents of the cells of prokaryote organisms are contained within the cytoplasm...

 and is made out of protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

. The cytoskeleton is present in all cells; it was once thought to be unique to eukaryote
Eukaryote
A eukaryote is an organism whose cells contain complex structures enclosed within membranes. Eukaryotes may more formally be referred to as the taxon Eukarya or Eukaryota. The defining membrane-bound structure that sets eukaryotic cells apart from prokaryotic cells is the nucleus, or nuclear...

s, but recent research has identified the prokaryotic cytoskeleton
Prokaryotic cytoskeleton
The prokaryotic cytoskeleton is the collective name for all structural filaments in prokaryotes. It was once thought that prokaryotic cells did not possess cytoskeletons, but recent advances in visualization technology and structure determination have shown that filaments indeed exist in these cells...

. It has structures such as flagella
Flagellum
A flagellum is a tail-like projection that protrudes from the cell body of certain prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, and plays the dual role of locomotion and sense organ, being sensitive to chemicals and temperatures outside the cell. There are some notable differences between prokaryotic and...

, cilia
Cilium
A cilium is an organelle found in eukaryotic cells. Cilia are slender protuberances that project from the much larger cell body....

 and lamellipodia
Lamellipodia
The lamellipodium is a cytoskeletal protein actin projection on the mobile edge of the cell. It contains a quasi-two-dimensional actin mesh; the whole structure propels the cell across a substrate...

 and plays important roles in both intracellular transport (the movement of vesicle
Vesicle (biology)
A vesicle is a bubble of liquid within another liquid, a supramolecular assembly made up of many different molecules. More technically, a vesicle is a small membrane-enclosed sack that can store or transport substances. Vesicles can form naturally because of the properties of lipid membranes , or...

s and organelles, for example) and cellular division
Cell division
Cell division is the process by which a parent cell divides into two or more daughter cells . Cell division is usually a small segment of a larger cell cycle. This type of cell division in eukaryotes is known as mitosis, and leaves the daughter cell capable of dividing again. The corresponding sort...

. In 1903 Nikolai K Koltsov
Nikolai Koltsov
Nikolai Konstantinovich Koltsov was a Russian biologist. He was one of the creators of modern genetics. Nikolai Koltsov was a teacher of Nikolay Timofeeff-Ressovsky.-Scientific career:...

 proposed that the shape of cells was determined by a network of tubules which he termed the cytoskeleton. The concept of a protein mosaic that dynamically coordinated cytoplasmic biochemistry was proposed by Rudolph Peters in 1929 while the term (cytosquelette, in French) was first introduced by French embryologist Paul Wintrebert
Paul Wintrebert
Paul Wintrebert was a French embryologist and a theoretician of developmental biology.He coined the term cytoskeleton in 1931.He held radical epigenetic views...

 in 1931.

The eukaryotic cytoskeleton



Eukaryotic cells contain three main kinds of cytoskeletal filaments, which are microfilaments, intermediate filaments, and microtubules. The cytoskeleton provides the cell with structure and shape, and by excluding
Excluded volume
The concept of excluded volume was introduced by Werner Kuhn in 1934 and applied to polymer molecules shortly thereafter by Paul Flory.- In liquid state theory :...

 macromolecules from some of the cytosol
Cytosol
The cytosol or intracellular fluid is the liquid found inside cells, that is separated into compartments by membranes. For example, the mitochondrial matrix separates the mitochondrion into compartments....

 it adds to the level of macromolecular crowding
Macromolecular crowding
The phenomenon of macromolecular crowding alters the properties of molecules in a solution when high concentrations of macromolecules such as proteins are present. Such conditions occur routinely in living cells; for instance, the cytosol of Escherichia coli contains about 300–400 milligrammes per...

 in this compartment. Cytoskeletal elements interact extensively and intimately with cellular membranes.

Microfilaments (actin filaments)


These are the thinnest filaments of the cytoskeleton. They are composed of linear polymers of actin
Actin
Actin is a globular, roughly 42-kDa moonlighting protein found in all eukaryotic cells where it may be present at concentrations of over 100 μM. It is also one of the most highly-conserved proteins, differing by no more than 20% in species as diverse as algae and humans...

 subunits, and generate force by elongation at one end of the filament coupled with shrinkage at the other, causing net movement of the intervening strand. They also act as tracks for the movement of myosin
Myosin
Myosins comprise a family of ATP-dependent motor proteins and are best known for their role in muscle contraction and their involvement in a wide range of other eukaryotic motility processes. They are responsible for actin-based motility. The term was originally used to describe a group of similar...

 molecules that attach to the microfilament and "walk" along them. Actin structures are controlled by the Rho family of small GTP-binding proteins such as Rho itself for contractile acto-myosin filaments ("stress fibers"), Rac for lamellipodia and Cdc42 for filopodia.

Intermediate filaments



These filaments, around 10 nanometers in diameter, are more stable (strongly bound) than actin filaments, and heterogeneous constituents of the cytoskeleton. Like actin filaments, they function in the maintenance of cell-shape by bearing tension (microtubules, by contrast, resist compression. It may be useful to think of micro- and intermediate filaments as cables, and of microtubules as cellular support beams). Intermediate filaments organize the internal tridimensional structure of the cell, anchoring organelles and serving as structural components of the nuclear lamina
Nuclear lamina
The nuclear lamina is a dense fibrillar network inside the nucleus of a eukaryotic cell. It is composed of intermediate filaments and membrane associated proteins. Besides providing mechanical support, the nuclear lamina regulates important cellular events such as DNA replication and cell division...

 and sarcomere
Sarcomere
A sarcomere is the basic unit of a muscle. Muscles are composed of tubular muscle cells . Muscle cells are composed of tubular myofibrils. Myofibrils are composed of repeating sections of sarcomeres, which appear under the microscope as dark and light bands...

s. They also participate in some cell-cell and cell-matrix junctions.

Different intermediate filaments are:
  • made of vimentin
    Vimentin
    Vimentin is a type III intermediate filament protein that is expressed in mesenchymal cells. IF proteins are found in all metazoan cells as well as bacteria. IF, along with tubulin-based microtubules and actin-based microfilaments, comprise the cytoskeleton...

    s, being the common structural support of many cells.
  • made of keratin
    Keratin
    Keratin refers to a family of fibrous structural proteins. Keratin is the key of structural material making up the outer layer of human skin. It is also the key structural component of hair and nails...

    , found in skin
    Skin
    -Dermis:The dermis is the layer of skin beneath the epidermis that consists of connective tissue and cushions the body from stress and strain. The dermis is tightly connected to the epidermis by a basement membrane. It also harbors many Mechanoreceptors that provide the sense of touch and heat...

     cells, hair
    Hair
    Hair is a filamentous biomaterial, that grows from follicles found in the dermis. Found exclusively in mammals, hair is one of the defining characteristics of the mammalian class....

     and nails
    Nail (anatomy)
    A nail is a horn-like envelope covering the dorsal aspect of the terminal phalanges of fingers and toes in humans, most non-human primates, and a few other mammals. Nails are similar to claws, which are found on numerous other animals....

    .
  • neurofilament
    Neurofilament
    Neurofilaments are the 10 nanometer intermediate filaments found specifically in neurons. They are a major component of the cell's cytoskeleton, and provide support for normal axonal radial growth...

    s of neural cells.
  • made of lamin
    Lamin
    Nuclear lamins, also known as Class V intermediate filaments, are fibrous proteins providing structural function and transcriptional regulation in the cell nucleus. Nuclear lamins interact with membrane-associated proteins to form the nuclear lamina on the interior of the nuclear envelope...

    , giving structural support to the nuclear envelope.

Microtubules




Microtubules are hollow cylinders about 23 nm in diameter (lumen = approximately 15 nm in diameter), most commonly comprising 13 protofilaments which, in turn, are polymers of alpha and beta tubulin
Tubulin
Tubulin is one of several members of a small family of globular proteins. The most common members of the tubulin family are α-tubulin and β-tubulin, the proteins that make up microtubules. Each has a molecular weight of approximately 55 kiloDaltons. Microtubules are assembled from dimers of α- and...

. They have a very dynamic behaviour, binding GTP
Guanosine triphosphate
Guanosine-5'-triphosphate is a purine nucleoside triphosphate. It can act as a substrate for the synthesis of RNA during the transcription process...

 for polymerization. They are commonly organized by the centrosome
Centrosome
In cell biology, the centrosome is an organelle that serves as the main microtubule organizing center of the animal cell as well as a regulator of cell-cycle progression. It was discovered by Edouard Van Beneden in 1883...

.

In nine triplet sets (star-shaped), they form the centrioles, and in nine doublets oriented about two additional microtubules (wheel-shaped) they form cilia and flagella. The latter formation is commonly referred to as a "9+2" arrangement, where in each doublet is connected to another by the protein dynein
Dynein
Dynein is a motor protein in cells which converts the chemical energy contained in ATP into the mechanical energy of movement. Dynein transports various cellular cargo by "walking" along cytoskeletal microtubules towards the minus-end of the microtubule, which is usually oriented towards the cell...

. As both flagella and cilia are structural components of the cell, and are maintained by microtubules, they can be considered part of the cytoskeleton.

They play key roles in:
  • intracellular transport (associated with dynein
    Dynein
    Dynein is a motor protein in cells which converts the chemical energy contained in ATP into the mechanical energy of movement. Dynein transports various cellular cargo by "walking" along cytoskeletal microtubules towards the minus-end of the microtubule, which is usually oriented towards the cell...

    s and kinesin
    Kinesin
    A kinesin is a protein belonging to a class of motor proteins found in eukaryotic cells. Kinesins move along microtubule filaments, and are powered by the hydrolysis of ATP . The active movement of kinesins supports several cellular functions including mitosis, meiosis and transport of cellular...

    s, they transport organelles like mitochondria or vesicle
    Vesicle (biology)
    A vesicle is a bubble of liquid within another liquid, a supramolecular assembly made up of many different molecules. More technically, a vesicle is a small membrane-enclosed sack that can store or transport substances. Vesicles can form naturally because of the properties of lipid membranes , or...

    s).
  • the axoneme
    Axoneme
    Numerous eukaryotic cells carry whip-like appendages whose inner core consists of a cytoskeletal structure called the axoneme....

     of cilia
    Cilium
    A cilium is an organelle found in eukaryotic cells. Cilia are slender protuberances that project from the much larger cell body....

     and flagella
    Flagellum
    A flagellum is a tail-like projection that protrudes from the cell body of certain prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, and plays the dual role of locomotion and sense organ, being sensitive to chemicals and temperatures outside the cell. There are some notable differences between prokaryotic and...

    .
  • the mitotic spindle
    Mitotic spindle
    In cell biology, the spindle fibers are the structure that separates the chromosomes into the daughter cells during cell division. It is part of the cytoskeleton in eukaryotic cells...

    .
  • synthesis of the cell wall in plants.

Comparison

Cytoskeleton type Diameter (nm
Nanometre
A nanometre is a unit of length in the metric system, equal to one billionth of a metre. The name combines the SI prefix nano- with the parent unit name metre .The nanometre is often used to express dimensions on the atomic scale: the diameter...

)
Structure Subunit examples
Microfilaments     6  double helix   actin
Actin
Actin is a globular, roughly 42-kDa moonlighting protein found in all eukaryotic cells where it may be present at concentrations of over 100 μM. It is also one of the most highly-conserved proteins, differing by no more than 20% in species as diverse as algae and humans...

Intermediate filament
Intermediate filament
Intermediate filaments are a family of related proteins that share common structural and sequence features. Intermediate filaments have an average diameter of 10 nanometers, which is between that of 7 nm actin , and that of 25 nm microtubules, although they were initially designated...

s
   10  two anti-parallel helices
Helix
A helix is a type of smooth space curve, i.e. a curve in three-dimensional space. It has the property that the tangent line at any point makes a constant angle with a fixed line called the axis. Examples of helixes are coil springs and the handrails of spiral staircases. A "filled-in" helix – for...

/dimers, forming tetramers
  • vimentin
    Vimentin
    Vimentin is a type III intermediate filament protein that is expressed in mesenchymal cells. IF proteins are found in all metazoan cells as well as bacteria. IF, along with tubulin-based microtubules and actin-based microfilaments, comprise the cytoskeleton...

     (mesenchyme
    Mesenchyme
    Mesenchyme, or mesenchymal connective tissue, is a type of undifferentiated loose connective tissue that is derived mostly from mesoderm, although some are derived from other germ layers; e.g. some mesenchyme is derived from neural crest cells and thus originates from the ectoderm...

    )
  • glial fibrillary acidic protein
    Glial fibrillary acidic protein
    Glial fibrillary acidic protein is an intermediate filament protein that was thought to be specific for astrocytes in the central nervous system . Later, it was shown that GFAP is also expressed by other cell types in CNS, including ependymal cells...

     (glial cell
    Glial cell
    Glial cells, sometimes called neuroglia or simply glia , are non-neuronal cells that maintain homeostasis, form myelin, and provide support and protection for neurons in the brain, and for neurons in other parts of the nervous system such as in the autonomous nervous system...

    s)
  • neurofilament
    Neurofilament
    Neurofilaments are the 10 nanometer intermediate filaments found specifically in neurons. They are a major component of the cell's cytoskeleton, and provide support for normal axonal radial growth...

     proteins (neuronal processes)
  • keratin
    Keratin
    Keratin refers to a family of fibrous structural proteins. Keratin is the key of structural material making up the outer layer of human skin. It is also the key structural component of hair and nails...

    s (epithelial cells)
  • nuclear lamins
Microtubule
Microtubule
Microtubules are a component of the cytoskeleton. These rope-like polymers of tubulin can grow as long as 25 micrometers and are highly dynamic. The outer diameter of microtubule is about 25 nm. Microtubules are important for maintaining cell structure, providing platforms for intracellular...

s
   23  protofilaments, in turn consisting of tubulin subunits  α- and β-tubulin

The prokaryotic cytoskeleton



The cytoskeleton was previously thought to be a feature only of eukaryotic
Eukaryote
A eukaryote is an organism whose cells contain complex structures enclosed within membranes. Eukaryotes may more formally be referred to as the taxon Eukarya or Eukaryota. The defining membrane-bound structure that sets eukaryotic cells apart from prokaryotic cells is the nucleus, or nuclear...

 cells, but homologues
Homology (biology)
Homology forms the basis of organization for comparative biology. In 1843, Richard Owen defined homology as "the same organ in different animals under every variety of form and function". Organs as different as a bat's wing, a seal's flipper, a cat's paw and a human hand have a common underlying...

 to all the major proteins of the eukaryotic cytoskeleton have recently been found in prokaryotes. Although the evolutionary relationships are so distant that they are not obvious from protein sequence comparisons alone, the similarity of their three-dimensional structures
Protein structure
Proteins are an important class of biological macromolecules present in all organisms. Proteins are polymers of amino acids. Classified by their physical size, proteins are nanoparticles . Each protein polymer – also known as a polypeptide – consists of a sequence formed from 20 possible L-α-amino...

 and similar functions in maintaining cell shape and polarity provides strong evidence that the eukaryotic and prokaryotic cytoskeletons are truly homologous. However, some structures in the bacterial cytoskeleton may have yet to be identified.

FtsZ


FtsZ
FtsZ
FtsZ is a protein encoded by the ftsZ gene that assembles into a ring at the future site of the septum of bacterial cell division. This is a prokaryotic homologue to the eukaryotic protein tubulin. FtsZ has been named after "Filamenting temperature-sensitive mutant Z". The hypothesis was that cell...

 was the first protein of the prokaryotic cytoskeleton to be identified. Like tubulin, FtsZ forms filaments in the presence of GTP
Guanosine triphosphate
Guanosine-5'-triphosphate is a purine nucleoside triphosphate. It can act as a substrate for the synthesis of RNA during the transcription process...

, but these filaments do not group into tubules. During cell division
Cell division
Cell division is the process by which a parent cell divides into two or more daughter cells . Cell division is usually a small segment of a larger cell cycle. This type of cell division in eukaryotes is known as mitosis, and leaves the daughter cell capable of dividing again. The corresponding sort...

, FtsZ is the first protein to move to the division site, and is essential for recruiting other proteins that synthesize the new cell wall
Cell wall
The cell wall is the tough, usually flexible but sometimes fairly rigid layer that surrounds some types of cells. It is located outside the cell membrane and provides these cells with structural support and protection, and also acts as a filtering mechanism. A major function of the cell wall is to...

 between the dividing cells.

MreB and ParM


Prokaryotic actin-like proteins, such as MreB
MreB
MreB is a protein found in bacteria that has been identified as a homologue of actin, as indicated by similarities in tertiary structure and conservation of active site peptide sequence. The conservation of protein structure suggests the common ancestry of the cytoskeletal elements formed by actin,...

, are involved in the maintenance of cell shape. All non-spherical bacteria have gene
Gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

s encoding actin-like proteins, and these proteins form a helical network beneath the cell membrane that guides the proteins involved in cell wall biosynthesis
Biosynthesis
Biosynthesis is an enzyme-catalyzed process in cells of living organisms by which substrates are converted to more complex products. The biosynthesis process often consists of several enzymatic steps in which the product of one step is used as substrate in the following step...

.

Some plasmid
Plasmid
In microbiology and genetics, a plasmid is a DNA molecule that is separate from, and can replicate independently of, the chromosomal DNA. They are double-stranded and, in many cases, circular...

s encode a partitioning system that involves an actin-like protein ParM
ParM
ParM is a prokaryotic actin homologue which provides the force to drive copies of the R1 plasmid to opposite ends of rod shaped bacteria before mitosis....

. Filaments of ParM exhibit dynamic instability, and may partition plasmid DNA into the dividing daughter cells by a mechanism analogous
Analogy (biology)
An analogy is a trait or an organ that appears similar in two unrelated organisms. The cladistic term for the same phenomenon is homoplasy, from Greek for same form. Biological anologies are often the result of convergent evolution....

 to that used by microtubules during eukaryotic mitosis
Mitosis
Mitosis is the process by which a eukaryotic cell separates the chromosomes in its cell nucleus into two identical sets, in two separate nuclei. It is generally followed immediately by cytokinesis, which divides the nuclei, cytoplasm, organelles and cell membrane into two cells containing roughly...

.

Crescentin


The bacterium Caulobacter crescentus
Caulobacter crescentus
Caulobacter crescentus is a Gram-negative, oligotrophic bacterium widely distributed in fresh water lakes and streams.Caulobacter is an important model organism for studying the regulation of the cell cycle, asymmetric cell division, and cellular differentiation. Caulobacter daughter cells have...

contains a third 3rd protein, crescentin
Crescentin
]Crescentin is a protein which is a bacterial relative of the intermediate filaments found in eukaryotic cells. Just as tubulins and actins, the other major cytoskeletal proteins, have prokaryotic homologs in, respectively, the FtsZ and MreB proteins, intermediate filaments are linked to the...

, that is related to the intermediate filaments of eukaryotic cells. Crescentin is also involved in maintaining cell shape, such as helical and vibrio
Vibrio
Vibrio is a genus of Gram-negative bacteria possessing a curved rod shape, several species of which can cause foodborne infection, usually associated with eating undercooked seafood. Typically found in saltwater, Vibrio are facultative anaerobes that test positive for oxidase and do not form...

id forms of bacteria, but the mechanism by which it does this is currently unclear.

Microtrabeculae


A fourth eukaryotic cytoskeletal element, microtrabeculae, was proposed by Keith Porter based on images obtained from high-voltage electron microscopy of whole cells in the 1970s. The images showed short, filamentous structures of unknown molecular composition associated with known cytoplasmic structures. Porter proposed that this microtrabecular structure represented a novel filamentous network distinct from microtubules, filamentous actin, or intermediate filaments. It is now generally accepted that microtrabeculae are nothing more than an artifact of certain types of fixation treatment, although we have yet to fully understand the complexity of the cell's cytoskeleton.

External links