The cytoskeleton refers to the network of fibers all over the cytoplasm of the cell. The main purposes of this network of fibers include providing the cell with support and helping it maintain its own shape. In addition, the cytoskeleton also hold the different cell organelles in place.
There are three main kinds of fibers which make up the cytoskeleton. These types are distinguished based on their sizes and include the microfilaments, which are the thinnest; the microtubules, which are the thickest; and the intermediate filaments.
Microfilaments, which are also called actin filaments, refer to solid rods that play a role in muscle contraction. This type of fibers is commonly found in muscle cells and is also common in eukaryotic cells. The microfilaments can help determine the cell’s shape and aid in cell movement. Furthermore, they also assist in the different processes that occur within the cell, including cell cleavage, which takes place during cell mitosis.
On the other hand, microtubules refer to the hollow rods which support the cell and help shape it. Additionally, this type of fibers functions as routes that allow movement of organelles. Just like microfilaments, microtubules are also commonly found in eukaryotic cells. They are longer filaments which play an important role during mitosis. These fibers are important in the process of moving the daughter chromosomes to the daughter cells that are just forming.
The last type called the intermediate filaments refer to very stable fibers, which create the skeleton of the cell. Intermediate filaments are prevalent in many cells and are important in providing microtubules and microfilaments with support, by holding them in their right positions. Additionally, these fibers also hold the nucleus of the cell in place. Aside from these functions, the intermediate filaments are the ones responsible for giving the elastic properties of the cell, as well as its ability to resist tension.