MadSci Network: Cell Biology

Re: How are the shapes of various cell types related to their function?

Date: Thu Nov 2 15:44:46 2000
Posted By: Pamela Norton, faculty, Dept. of Medicine, Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Area of science: Cell Biology
ID: 971146866.Cb

As you mention, there are many types of cells and the answer to your 
question is likely to be different for each cell type. You might want to 
select a specific cell types; neurons and muscle cells come to mind. 
Neurons consist of a central cell body that contains the nucleus plus long 
projections that connect to other cells and permit signalling. Muscle cells 
fuse to form long narrow myotubes, which bundle together to form muscle 
fibers. In both cases, it seems that correct shape is necessary for proper 
function. However, these are somewhat extreme examples.

For more information, let me point you in a couple of directions. First, 
head to the library and look over some cell biology texts. A good one to 
start with is "Molecular Biology of the Cell" by Alberts et al. Next, check 
out the following web site:

A somewhat general discussion of how cellular architecture may affect 
function can be found in the January 1998 issue of Scientific American, 
p.48. Some more specific details can be found in papers in the Journal of 
Cellular Biochemistry, Supplements 30/3, see pages 220, and 250. These 
papers tend to argue that form (shape) and function are intricately linked.

Good luck, and I hope that this helps.

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