|MadSci Network: Cell Biology|
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: http://cellbio.utmb.edu/microanatomy/epithelia/epith_lec.htm 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.
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Cell Biology.