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Open Access Highly Accessed Opinion

Origins of cellular geometry

Wallace F Marshall

Author Affiliations

Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-2200, USA

BMC Biology 2011, 9:57  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-9-57

Published: 31 August 2011

Abstract

Cells are highly complex and orderly machines, with defined shapes and a startling variety of internal organizations. Complex geometry is a feature of both free-living unicellular organisms and cells inside multicellular animals. Where does the geometry of a cell come from? Many of the same questions that arise in developmental biology can also be asked of cells, but in most cases we do not know the answers. How much of cellular organization is dictated by global cell polarity cues as opposed to local interactions between cellular components? Does cellular structure persist across cell generations? What is the relationship between cell geometry and tissue organization? What ensures that intracellular structures are scaled to the overall size of the cell? Cell biology is only now beginning to come to grips with these questions.