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Intracellular transport

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This free course, Intracellular transport, explains the function of the cytoskeleton and its role in controlling transport of vesicles between different subcellular compartments.

By the end of this free course you should be able to:

  • define and use each of the terms printed in bold in the text.
  • describe the characteristics of different intracellular compartments with respect to their structure, location and composition within a mammalian cell;
  • describe the traffic pathways between the endoplasmic reticulum, the Golgi apparatus, the endosomal compartments, and the basolateral and apical regions of the plasma membrane;
  • give examples of regulated and unregulated secretion, the mechanisms controlling the processes, and their functional significance;
  • give examples of endocytosis, the mechanisms involved and their functional significance;
  • describe the components of the cytoskeleton and their role in intracellular transport;
  • describe the main classes of motor protein and their functions within the cell;
  • understand the role of compartmentalisation in organising different intracellular regions for distinct biochemical interactions and cell functions, which are specific for each type of cell;
  • design and interpret the results of an experiment to investigate the subcellular localisation of a receptor protein, based on the technique of immuno-electron microscopy.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 12 hours
  • Updated Tuesday 18th March 2014
  • Advanced level
  • Posted under Biology
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Intracellular transport


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The cytoskeleton is of fundamental importance to a cell, and the development of different elements of the cytoskeleton were key steps in the evolution of eukaryotic cells. The cytoskeleton controls cell shape and allows cell movement; it is required for many aspects of intracellular trafficking of vesicles and organelles, and it is involved in cell division. Because of its important role in facilitating the movement of vesicles between compartments, but a basic understanding of how the cytoskeleton works is equally important for cell division and cell migration.

This unit is an adapted extract from the Open University course S377 Molecular and cell biology [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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