Microtubules and Microfilaments

  • Lawrence S. Dillon


Next to membranes, there is probably no other cellular element as ubiquitous as the microtubule and related fibrillar structures. Although their presence was first suggested by Sigmund Freud (1882), then a young cell biologist working on live crayfish neurons, their actual existence could only be asserted with some assurance even as late as the mid-1950s (Porter, 1955). It remained for the advent of glutaraldehyde fixation (Sabatini et al., 1963; Karnovsky, 1965), combined with other refinements in electron microscopic techniques (Palay et al., 1962), to confirm their reality convincingly. Subsequently, researches on these organelles have reached a relatively high level of frequency, and a number of review articles have appeared in print (Dustin, 1972, 1978; Bardele, 1973; Margulis, 1973; Olmstead and Borisy, 1973; Shelanski, 1973; Bryan, 1974; Mazia, 1975; Snyder and McIntosh, 1976; Stephens and Edds, 1976; Kirschner, 1978). Generally three categories of fibrillar elements are recognized, distinguished for the present on the basis of their diameters: microtubules, ranging from 180 to 250 Å in thickness, intermediate filaments, between 80 and 100 Å, and nanofilaments,* from 40 to 70 Å (Burnside, 1975). Among others, the second category includes neurofilaments and tonofilaments, the latter of which will be recalled as occurring in intercellular junctions (Chapter 1, Section 1.2.3). Because microtubules are by far the most extensively investigated of these structures, they are reported in detail before other types are given attention.


Actin Filament Thin Filament Thick Filament Tubulin Polymerization Myosin Filament 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence S. Dillon
    • 1
  1. 1.Texas A & M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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