The jellylike matrix within a cell (exclusive of that within the nucleus) is known as cytoplasm. Cytoplasm includes structures called organelles that are visible under the microscope, and the fluidlike cytosol that surrounds the organelles. When viewed in a microscope without special techniques, the cytoplasm appears to be uniform and unstructured. According to modern evidence, however, the cytosol is not a homogenous solution; it is, rather, a highly organized structure in which protein fibers—in the form of microtubules and microfilaments—are arranged in a complex latticework surrounding the membrane-bound organelles. Using fluorescence microscopy, these structures can be visualized with the aid of antibodies against their protein components (fig. 3.7). The interconnected microfilaments and microtubules are believed to provide structural organization for cytoplasmic enzymes and support for various organelles.
The latticework of microfilaments and microtubules is said to function as a cytoskeleton (fig. 3.8). The structure of this "skeleton" is not rigid; it is capable of quite rapid movement and reorganization. Contractile proteins—including actin and myosin, which are responsible for muscle contraction—are micro-tubules found in most cells. Such microtubules aid in amoeboid movement, for example, so that the cytoskeleton is also the cell's "musculature." Microtubules, as another example, form the spindle apparatus that pulls chromosomes away from each other in cell division. Microtubules also form the central parts of cilia and flagella and contribute to the structure and movements of these projections from the cells.
The cytoplasm of some cells contains stored chemicals in aggregates called inclusions. Examples are glycogen granules in the liver, striated muscles, and some other tissues; melanin granules in the melanocytes of the skin; and triglycerides within adipose cells.
■ Figure 3.8 The formation of the cytoskeleton by microtubules.
Microtubules are also important in the motility (movement) of the cell, and movement of materials within the cell.
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.