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Dept.Anatomy cytology /Lec8 Dr.



Cytoskeleton or Metaplasma is the supportive structure of the cell. Moreover cytoskeleton

of mammalian cell is responsible for cell shape, dynamic organization of cytoplasm,
transport of information through the cell and
formation of pseudopodia, as well as phagocytosis
or exocytosis .
It includes:
1. Microtubules
2. Microfilaments
3. Intermediate filaments

They are hollow tubules (cylinders) formed of 13
parallel arranged protofilaments. Each one consists of α- and β- tubulin subunits.
Polarity characterizes the microtubules. They have plus end that elongates more rapidly, and
minus end attached to microtubule organizing centre (MTOC) in centrosome.
Organization: Single microtubules are distributed within the cytoplasm. Also, microtubules
are found in form of doublets; two attached tubules as in motile cilia or in group of three
tubules forming triplets of centrioles or basal bodies.

Functions of microtubules
1-Maintain cell shape.
2-Form mitotic spindle during cell division.
3-Hold the organelles in their places.
4-Form tracks for the movement of intracellular organelles.
5-Form core of motile cilia and flagella for the cell movement.

Microtubules Associated Proteins (MAPS):

a) Fibrous MAPs:
Fibrous MAPs are special type of proteins that cross-link the
microtubule. They help in the bundle formation of aggregated
parallel microtubules.

a) Motors:
There are two types MAPs behaving like machines or motors
that are able to move along the microtubules: Kinesin and
These motors use the energy resulted from hydrolysis of ATP
to move along the microtubules.
Kinesin moves an organelle towards the plus end of
microtubule. It attaches to receptor on the organelle, and then
walks along microtubule toward the plus end to transport the
organelle .
Dynein likes the kinesin. It moves the organelle toward minus end of microtubules.

a. Centrosome
b. Motile cilia
c. Flagella

Centrosome It is formed of two centrioles .

A pair of small, cylindrical organelles located at right angles to each
other near the nucleus in cytoplasm of animal cells.
Functions: Centrioles act as microtubule organizing centre (MTOC, MT assembly) and form
the mitotic spindle in metaphase of cell division.
Ultrastructurally, each centriole is in the form of a cylinder composed of 9 triplets of
microtubules (9 x 3) .
Centrioles play an important role in the formation of various cellular structures that are
made up of microtubules. These include the mitotic spindles of dividing cells, cilia, flagella,
and some projections of specialized cells( the axial filaments of spermatozoa).

Projections from the cell surface

Motile Cilia and Flagella
They are cylindrical extensions of plasma membrane provided by core of 9 doublets and 2
central single MT. They are formed by basal bodies (9x3 MT). By help of dynein and ATP
hydrolysis they can bend by sliding past each other and results in regular movement of the
motile cilia.
The free part of each cilium is called the shaft . the region of attachment to the cell surface
is called the base .Each cilium is 0.25µm in diameter . It consists of an outer covering that is
formed by an extension of the membrane , and an inner core that is made by microtubules
arranged in a definite manner.
There are two types of cilia.
a. Non-motile or Stereocilia (Primary cilia)
-motile processes .
similar to microvilli, but may be branched and irregular in height.

hair of the cells of cochlea that function in signal generation.

It can be bent by external influences. Such cilia present on the cells in the olfactory mucosa
of the nose are called olfactory cilia ,they are responsible for smell.

b. Motile Cilia or Flagella (Kinocilia)

–like cytoplasmic projections and irregular in shape, diameter and height .

coordinated waves.
the respiratory tract , where
they sweep mucus and dirt out of the lungs.

ovary to the uterus.

ey provide locomotion in free-swimming unicellular organisms

Abnormalities of cilia :
Cilia can be abnormal in persons with genetic defects that interfere with synthesis of
ciliary proteins . This leads to the immotile cilia syndrome . As secretions are not removed
from respiratory passages the patient has repeated and sever chest infections. Women
affected by the syndrome may be sterile as movement of ova along the uterine tube is
affected . ciliary proteins are present in the tails of spermatozoa, and an affected male may be
sterile because of interference with the motility of spermatozoa.
Ciliary action is also necessary for normal development of tissues in embryonic life.
Migration of cells during embryogenesis is depended on ciliary action , and if the cilia are
not motile various congenital abnormalities can result.
What are the differences between motile cilia and primary or non-motile cilia?
Motile cilia (kinocilia)

l body (9 x 3) of microtubules.

provided by long flagellum.

Locomotion, they are responsible for the movement of fluids or mucous on the
epithelial surfaces.

Non-motile cilia (stereocilia)

didymis, inner ear, and olfactory epithelium.

These are somewhat larger processes having the same basic structure as cilia . In
human body the best example of flagellum is the tail of the spermatozoon. The movements
of flagella are different from those of cilia. In a flagellum , movement starts at its base. The
segment nearest the base bends in one direction . This is followed by bending of next
segments in opposite directions ,so that a wave like motion passes down the flagellum.
Microfilaments or Actin filaments
They are flexible and solid fibers composed of two intertwined strings of beadlike actin
molecules (They are made up of the protein actin (globular).these join together to form long
chains called f-actin) . These are about 5 nm in diameter. They aggregate in form of bundles
or network. They attach the cell membrane and zonula adhesion (intercellular junction) and
form the apical and basal supporting
cell web.
Functions of microfilaments:
1-Maintain cell shape.
2-Generate movement with myosin in contractile cells like the muscle fibers.
3-Form cleavage furrow in cell division.
4-Form core of bundles in microvilli .

Microvilli and Basolateral folds:

Microvilli are finger like projections from the
cell surface. They are regular in height and
diameter (1 – 2 μm in height).
Each microvilli consists of an outer covering
plasma membrane and core of actin
filaments.In the free borders of epithelial cells
lining the small intestine appear striated
border of microvilli arranged parallel to one
In some cells the microvilli are not arranged
so regularly and give the appearance of a
brush border.
Microvilli greatly increase the surface area of the cell and are seen most typically at sites
of active absorption ,example , intestine, Kidney .
In some cells the cell membrane shows deep folds(basolateral folds). Like microvilli, they
are an adaptation to increase cell surface area . they are seen in renal tubular cells, ducts of
some glands and gut.

Intermediate filaments
They are non-contractile filaments formed of keratin fibrous protein. These are so called
as their diameter(10 nm). They are very stable and tough fibers, concentrated in the terminal
web that maintains the cell shape. Their assembling is irreversible. They include cytokeratin
(in epithelial cell) of the skin, neurofilament protein (in neuron),desmin( in muscle),
vimentin (in many types of cells)

Functions of intermediate filaments:

1-Strengthen the cytoskeleton.
2-Stabilize the cell shape.
3-Support cell junctions, particularly the parts under mechanical stress.
4-Disorganization and reorganization of nucleus in cell division.
5-Form nuclear lamina under nuclear envelope to maintain the nuclear form.

Defective keratins lead to the epidermolysis bullosa simplex disorder.

Blistering of the skin caused by mutant keratin genes
Other blistering diseases: mouth, esophageal lining and cornea of the eye .(mutations of
different keratins)

In some disorders, there is an accumulation and abnormal

assembly of Neurofilaments in motor neuron cell bodies and
axon interfere with normal axon transport .

-Actin filaments and microtubules are targets of

many plant toxins
Some toxins and drugs (all of which inhibit mitosis) affect
polymerization or depolymerization of tubulin:
 Taxol, an anti-cancer drug, stabilizes
 Colchicine binds tubulin & blocks polymerization. Microtubules depolymerize
at high [colchicine].
 Vinblastine causes depolymerization and formation of vinblastine-tubulin
 Nocodazole causes depolymerization of microtubules
The Extracellular Matrix (ECM)
Eukaryotic cells are covered by glycocalyx or cell coat that is composed of
polysaccharide side chains attached to proteins and lipids of cell membrane.
Glycocalyx cover the free surfaces of the cells and is important for:
- Cell - cell recognition process.
- The intercellular contact.
- Act as adhesive and communicating media.

In addition to the cell coat, cells may be surrounded by extracellular matrix (ECM) which
they release . ECM is formed of gel of carbohydrate and fibrous proteins including:

1- Collagen (very tough Fibers).

2- Fibronectins (glycoproteins) attach the membrane receptors (integrins).
3- Integrins (membrane receptors):

o Attach ECM to the cytoskeleton.

o Act as receptors for fibronectins.
o Organize the cytoskeleton.
o Important in cell movement.
o Important for many cell signaling path-ways.

Fig.: Membrane receptor integrins connects between

cytoskeleton and fibronectin and collage fibers of the
extracellular matrix; ECM