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The cytosol (as opposed to cytoplasm, which also includes the organelles) is the internal fluid of the cell, and a large part of cell metabolism occurs here. Proteins within the cytosol play an important role in signal transduction pathways, glycolysis, and they act as intracellular receptors and ribosomes. In prokaryotes, all chemical reactions take place in the cytosol. In eukaryotes, the cytosol contains the cell organelles. In plants, the amount of cytosol can be reduced due to the large tonoplast (central vacuole) that takes up most of the cell interior volume.

The cytosol is not a "soup" with free-floating particles, but is highly organized on the molecular level. The cytosol also contains the cytoskeleton. This is made of fibrous proteins (microfilaments, microtubules, and intermediate filaments) and (in many organisms) maintains the shape of the cell, anchors organelles, and controls internal movement of structures, e.g., transport vesicles.

As the concentration of soluble molecules increases within the cytosol, an osmotic gradient builds up toward the outside of the cell. Water flows into the cell, making the cell larger. To prevent the cell from bursting apart, molecular pumps in the plasma membrane, the cytoskeleton, the tonoplast or the cell wall (if present), are used to counteract the osmotic pressure.


The cytosol is 20% to 30% protein.

Normal human cytosolic pH is (roughly) 7.0 (i.e. neutral), whereas the pH of the extracellular fluid is 7.4.


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