What is the Cytoskeleton?
The cytoskeleton is an evolutionarily conserved structure consisting of an internal filamentous protein scaffold. It is essentially composed by a meshwork of microtubule filaments (~25nm diameter fibers), actin microfilaments (~5nm), intermediate filaments (~10 nm) and their associated proteins.
The cytoskeleton serves as a “highway” for intracellular transport of nutrients, organelles and signaling molecules; it also provides the architectural support to the cell and participates actively in cellular communication via the establishment and maintenance of cell-cell contacts.
Genetic or biochemical alterations in cytoskeletal proteins can lead to a wide panoply of diseases including accelerated aging (Werner syndrome), cancers and neurodevelopmental (ex: lissencephaly, double cortex syndrome, microcephaly) and neurodegenerative disorders (ex: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer). Therapies targeting the cytoskeleton are underway for the treatment of these human debilitating diseases.