What Does the Cytoskeleton Do in a Cell?

The cytoskeleton moves organelles around in a cell, gives the cell shape, helps the cell to move and aids the cell during cell division. The cytoskeleton is made up of protein fibers.

Animal cells do not have cell walls like plant cells do, so they need some kind of structure to keep their shape. This shape formation is accomplished by the cytoskeleton. Many eukaryotic cells contain three types of cytoskeletal structures: microtubules, intermediate filaments and microfilaments.

The cytoskeleton also moves elements around in the cell. During cell division, cytoskeleton components called microtubules pull the chromosomes to opposite ends of the cell so that they can be separated in the daughter cells. Both microtubules and microfilaments move structures called organelles around the cytoplasm. When the cell engulfs something from outside the cell, microtubules and microfilaments transport vesicles formed near the cell membrane toward the center of the cell. Vesicles also play important parts in the packaging plant of the cell, the Golgi bodies, and the transport system of the cell, the endoplasmic reticulum.

Cells move by way of cytoskeleton components. Single-celled organisms such as the paramecium and the Euglena move by way of cilia and flagella. Both cilia and flagella are made of cytoskeletal parts. The amoeba’s movement is also governed by cytoskeletal structures.