Although cell boundaries are defined by the plasma membrane, many cells are surrounded by an insoluble array of secreted macromolecules. Cells of bacteria, fungi, algae, and higher plants are surrounded by rigid cell walls, which are an integral part of the cell. Although animal cells are not surrounded by cell walls, most of the cells in animal tissues are embedded in an extracellular matrix consisting of secreted proteins and polysaccharides. The extracellular matrix not only provides structural support to cells and tissues, but also plays important roles in regulating cell behavior. Interactions of cells with the extracellular matrix anchor the cytoskeleton and regulate cell shape and movement. Likewise, direct interactions between cells are key to the organization of cells in tissues, as well as providing channels through which cells can communicate with their neighbors.

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