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Nanoscale Intracellular Organization and Functional Architecture Mediating Cellular Behavior

Cells function based on a complex set of interactions that control pathways resulting in ultimate cell fates including proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. The interworkings of his immensely dense network of intracellular molecules are influenced by more than random protein and nucleic acid distribution where their interactions culminate in distinct cellular function. By probing the design of these biological systems from an engineering perspective, researchers can gain great insight that will aid in building and utilizing systems that are on this size scale where traditional large-scale rules may fail to apply. The organized interaction and gradient distribution in intracellular space imply a structural architecture that modulates cellular processes by influencing biochemical interactions including transport and binding-reactions. One significant structure that plays a role in this modulation is the cell cytoskeleton. Here, we discuss the cytoskeleton as a central and integrating functional structure in influencing cell processes and we describe technology useful for probing this structure. We explain the nanometer scale science of cytoskeletal structure with respect to intracellular organization, mechanotransduction, cytoskeletal-associated proteins, and motor molecules, as well as nano- and microtechnologies that are applicable for experimental studies of the cytoskeleton. This biological architecture of the cytoskeleton influences molecular, cellular, and physiological processes through structured multimodular and hierarchical principles centered on these functional filaments. Through investigating these organic systems that have evolved over billions of years, understanding in biology, engineering, and nanometer-scaled science will be advanced.

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