Cell Morphology and the Cytoskeleton

  • Kermit L. Carraway
  • Coralie A. Carothers Carraway
  • Kermit L. CarrawayIII


Development of multicellular organisms can be viewed as an expression of infor-mation encoded in the nuclear genome to provide instructions for the synthe-sis of cell-and tissue-specific proteins. These proteins assemble into structures that allow the differentiated cell to perform its specialized functions. Specific cellular morphologies are as varied as their functions. The span of morphologies expressed by animal cells is astounding, ranging from the simple, spherical shape of the unperturbed lymphocytes to the spinal cord motor neuron which may extend meters in length. The morphology of differentiated cells is not necessarily static, since many cells are capable of radically altering their morphology according to changing conditions in their environment that require them to carry out different functions at different times. For example, neutrophils that circulate as spherical cells in the blood can, in response to signals produced by local tissue inflammation, adopt an “ameboid” migratory configuration to crawl between the lining cells of blood vessels, and home in on the site of inflammation. There they can reorganize their structure yet again to become phagocytic cells (1). The role and dynamics of morphology are not limited to cells of multicellular organisms. The budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, responds to mating pheromone by extending a mating projection and by a rearrangement of its cytoskeleton and secretory apparatus (2). Such examples clearly demonstrate that cellular behavior is dependent on cell morphology, and that morphology is both dynamic and responsive to extracellular signals. These morphological changes are not limited to specialized cell functions. Many cells in the organism retain the ability to undergo cell division, often under the influence of signals from their environment or from other cells. This division involves massive internal morphological rearrangements.


Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein Intermediate Filament Stress Fiber Curr Opin Cell Biol Cytoplasmic Dynein 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kermit L. Carraway
    • 1
  • Coralie A. Carothers Carraway
    • 1
  • Kermit L. CarrawayIII
    • 2
  1. 1.School of MedicineUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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