The cytoskeleton architecture supports many cellular functions. Cytoskeleton networks form complex intracellular structures that vary during the cell cycle and between different cell types according to their physiological role. These structures do not emerge spontaneously. They result from the interplay between intrinsic self-organization properties and the conditions imposed by spatial boundaries. Along these boundaries, cytoskeleton filaments are anchored, repulsed, aligned, or reoriented. Such local effects can propagate alterations throughout the network and guide cytoskeleton assembly over relatively large distances. The experimental manipulation of spatial boundaries using microfabrication methods has revealed the underlying physical processes directing cytoskeleton self-organization. Here we review, step-by-step, from molecules to tissues, how the rules that govern assembly have been identified. We describe how complementary approaches, all based on controlling geometric conditions, from in vitro reconstruction to in vivo observation, shed new light on these fundamental organizing principles.
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