How Cells Measure Length on Subcellular Scales

Trends Cell Biol. 2015 Dec;25(12):760-768. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2015.08.008. Epub 2015 Oct 1.


Cells are not just amorphous bags of enzymes, but precise and complex machines. With any machine, it is important that the parts be of the right size, yet our understanding of the mechanisms that control size of cellular structures remains at a rudimentary level in most cases. One problem with studying size control is that many cellular organelles have complex 3D structures that make their size hard to measure. Here we focus on linear structures within cells, for which the problem of size control reduces to the problem of length control. We compare and contrast potential mechanisms for length control to understand how cells solve simple geometry problems.

Keywords: cytoskeleton; gradients; limiting precursor; molecular rulers; organelle dynamics; organelle size.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Size*
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Space / physiology*
  • Microtubules / physiology
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure
  • Organelles / physiology*
  • Organelles / ultrastructure