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noun, plural: cytoskeletons

(cell biology) The lattice or internal framework of a cell composed of protein filaments and microtubules in the cytoplasm, and has a role in controlling cell shape, maintaining intracellular organization, and in cell movement


A cytoskeleton is an organelle that forms a lattice or internal framework of a cell. It is composed of protein filaments and microtubules. It extends throughout the cytosol, from the nucleus to the plasma membrane. Its primary function is associated with cell shape, division, differentiation, intracellular organization, and cell movement. It occurs in all cells of living things, particularly archaea, bacteria, and eukaryotes.

The cytoskeletons of eukaryotic cells are of three types: (1) microfilaments (double helix polymers of actin sub-units, with diameter of 7 nm), (2) microtubules (polymers of tubulin sub-units, with diameter of 25 nm), and (3) intermediate filaments (polymers comprised of two anti-parallel helices or dimers of varying protein sub-units with diameters ranging from 8 to 12 nm, e.g. vimentin (mesenchyme), glial fibrillary acidic protein (glial cells), neurofilament proteins (neuronal processes), keratins (epithelial cells), and nuclear lamins.

In prokaryotic cells, examples of cytoskeletons include FtsZ, MreB, Crescentin, ParM and SopA, MinCDE system, Bactofilin, and Crenactin.

Abbreviation / Acronym:

  • CSK

See also:

Related form(s):

  • cytoskeletal (adjective, of, or pertaining to, cytoskeleton)