Successful completion of diverse cellular functions, such as mitosis, positioning organelles, and assembling cilia, depends on the proper assembly of microtubule-based structures. While essentially all of the proteins needed to assemble these structures are now known, we cannot explain how even simple features such as size and shape are determined. As steps toward filling this knowledge gap, there have been several recent efforts toward reconstituting, with purified proteins, the basic structural motifs that recur in diverse cytoskeletal arrays. We discuss these studies and highlight how they shed light on the self-organized assembly of complex and dynamic cytoskeleton-based cellular structures.
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