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The Collaborative International Dictionary

cytoskeleton \cy`to*skel"e*ton\ (s[imac]`t[-o]*sk[e^]l"[i^]*t'n), n. (Cell Biology) An arrangement of microtubules, microfilaments, and larger filaments within a cell serving to provide structural support of components of the cell, and to transport components from one part of the cell to another; the filaments are composed of protein and form a latticelike arrangement which may change rapidly with time.


n. (context cytology English) A cellular structure like a skeleton, contained within the cytoplasm.


n. a microscopic network of actin filaments and microtubules in the cytoplasm of many living cells that gives the cell shape and coherence


In all cells of all domains of life ( archaea, bacteria, eukaryotes) a cytoskeleton is found (notably in all eukaryotic cells, which include human, animal, fungal and plant cells). The cytoskeleton can be referred to as a complex network of interlinking filaments and tubules that extend throughout the cytoplasm, from the nucleus to the plasma membrane The cytoskeletal systems of different organisms are composed of similar proteins. In eukaryotes, the cytoskeletal matrix is a dynamic structure composed of three main proteins, which are capable of rapid growth or disassembly dependent on the cell's requirements at a certain period of time. However, the structure, function and dynamic behaviour of the cytoskeleton can be very different, depending on organism and cell type. Similarly, within the same cell type the structure, dynamic behaviour, and function of the cytoskeleton can change through association with other proteins and the previous history of the network.

There is a multitude of functions that the cytoskeleton can perform. Primarily, it gives the cell shape and mechanical resistance to deformation, so that through association with extracellular connective tissue and other cells it stabilizes entire tissues. The cytoskeleton can also actively contract, thereby deforming the cell and the cell's environment and allowing cells to migrate. Moreover, it is involved in many cell signaling pathways, in the uptake of extracellular material ( endocytosis), segregates chromosomes during cellular division, is involved in cytokinesis (the division of a mother cell into two daughter cells), provides a scaffold to organize the contents of the cell in space and for intracellular transport (for example, the movement of vesicles and organelles within the cell); and can be a template for the construction of a cell wall. Furthermore, it forms specialized structures, such as flagella, cilia, lamellipodia and podosomes.

A large-scale example of an action performed by the cytoskeleton is muscle contraction. During contraction of a muscle, within each muscle cell, myosin molecular motors collectively exert forces on parallel actin filaments. This action contracts the muscle cell, and through the synchronous process in many muscle cells, the entire muscle.

Cytoskeleton (journal)

Cytoskeleton is a peer-reviewed scientific journal covering cytoskeletal research. The journal publishes original research pertaining to cell motility and cytoskeletons, spanning genetic and cell biological observations, biochemical, biophysical and structural studies, mathematical modeling, and theory. It was established in 1980 as '' Cell Motility''. From 1989 to 2009 it was named Cell Motility and the Cytoskeleton, before obtaining its current name in 2010.

Usage examples of "cytoskeleton".

Well, cilia are part of the cytoskeleton, the internal framework that gives the cell its shape.

In brain cells, the cytoskeleton can also transmit impulses and information, and some scientists believe that it plays an important part in neural activity.

But now it was entirely possible that the cytoskeletons of my very own neurons were dotted with molecules that coupled them strongly to a noisy microwave field in which my skull was, definitely, bathed.

In that finer-grained appraisal they had begun investigating the cytoskeletons of neuron cells, which were internal arrays of microtubules, with protein bridges between the microtubules.

Indeed it was only very recently, by including the quantum effects in the cytoskeletons, that a team of French researchers had finally managed to put forth a plausible theory as to why general anesthetics worked, after all the centuries of blithely using them.