Microfilaments: Definition, Function & Structure

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  • 0:01 Eukaryotic & Prokaryotic
  • 0:30 What Are Microfilaments?
  • 1:20 Role of Microfilaments
  • 2:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jeremy Battista

Jeremy has a master of science degree in education.

Microfilaments are present in all cells that we encounter. They allow for movement, structure, and transportation across a cell. These filaments are important in each type of cell - we will go into greater detail in this lesson.

Eukaryotic vs. Prokaryotic Cells

Before we get into microfilaments, let's have a quick refresher on the types of cells. Eukaryotic cells are those with a membrane enclosed nucleus as well as membrane enclosed organelles. Prokaryotic cells lack these structures among other things, but one thing that is present in both of these types of cells are microfilaments. In fact, microfilaments are an extremely important feature of any cell.

What Are Microfilaments?

Microfilaments are tiny rods that are comprised mainly of actin filaments. They're about 7 nanometers in diameter, which, frankly, is extremely tiny. In a sense, they're two separate strands of actin that intertwine together, similar to a braided rope or a twisty tie. There are two completely separate strands that twist together to form a thicker, larger strand.

As stated before, microfilaments made of actin, which is the most abundant protein in a cell. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, actin is the most prevalent in protein-to-protein interactions. This makes sense because, as we stated earlier, microfilaments are essentially two strands of actin simply intertwined, and as we will learn, microfilaments work with other proteins as part of their job.

The Role of Microfilaments

There are at least a few well known uses for microfilaments in cells. The first use is being able to bear tension in the cell. They work together with other proteins to maintain a cell's shape. Many forces act upon a cell, but the microfilaments work to keep the cell in its particular shape.

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