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System of microscopic filaments or fibres, present in the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells (seeeukaryote), that organizes other cell components, maintains cell shape, and is responsible for cell locomotion and for movement of the organelles within it. Three major types of filaments make up the cytoskeleton: actin filaments, microtubules, and intermediate filaments. Actin filaments occur as constantly changing bundles of parallel fibres; they help determine cell shape, help the cell adhere to surfaces, help the cell move, and assist in cell division during mitosis. Intermediate filaments are very stable structures that form the cell's true skeleton; they anchor the nucleus within the cell and give the cell its elastic properties.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on cytoskeleton, visit Britannica.com.