Cells are the smallest building blocks of all living eukaryotic organisms, usually ranging from a couple of micrometers (for example, platelets) to hundreds of micrometers (for example, neurons and oocytes) in size. In eukaryotic cells that are more than 100 µm in diameter, very often a self-organized large-scale movement of cytoplasmic contents, known as cytoplasmic streaming, occurs to compensate for the physical constraints of large cells. In this Review, we discuss cytoplasmic streaming in multiple cell types and the mechanisms driving this event. We particularly focus on the molecular motors responsible for cytoplasmic movements and the biological roles of cytoplasmic streaming in cells. Finally, we describe bulk intercellular flow that transports cytoplasmic materials to the oocyte from its sister germline cells to drive rapid oocyte growth.

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