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Cellular Structure

Biology for Majors

A microscope is an instrument that magnifies an object
a) Light microscope uses light to illuminate a specimen
b) Electron microscope uses a beam of electrons to
illuminate a specimen. It has higher magnification,
higher resolution, and more detail 
Studying Cells
Most cells are too small to see without the aid of a

Within cells there are numerous structures that also

need microscopes, especially electron microscopes.

In eukaryotic cells, numerous organelles have

specialized structures and functions.
in an
Animal Cell
in a Plant

• Different in eukaryotes and prokaryotes.

• In eukaryotic cells, which have a nucleus, the cytoplasm is
everything between the plasma membrane and the nuclear
• In prokaryotes, which lack a nucleus, cytoplasm simply means
everything found inside the plasma membrane.
• One major component is the gel-like cytosol, a water-based
solution that contains ions, small molecules, and macromolecules.
• The cytoskeleton, a network of fibers that supports the cell and
gives it shape, is found in the cytoplasm.
• Many metabolic reactions, including protein synthesis, take place
in this part of the cell.

The nucleus houses
the cell’s DNA and
directs the synthesis of
ribosomes and
Chromosomes and Chromatin
Image (a) shows various levels of the organization of
chromatin; (b) shows paired chromosomes.

A darkly staining area within the nucleus called the

nucleolus aggregates the ribosomal RNA with
associated proteins to assemble the ribosomal subunits
that are then transported out through the pores in the
nuclear envelope to the cytoplasm.

Ribosomes are
made up of a large
subunit (top) and a
small subunit
(bottom). During
protein synthesis,
assemble amino
acids into proteins.
All cells have

• During cellular
make adenosine
(ATP), the cell’s
main energy-
carrying molecule.
• They have their
own DNA and

Peroxisomes are small, round organelles enclosed by

single membranes. They carry out oxidation reactions
that break down fatty acids and amino acids. They also
detoxify many poisons that may enter the body.

Glyoxysomes, which are specialized peroxisomes in

plants, are responsible for converting stored fats into

Modifies packages,
and transports lipids
and proteins. It
• the nuclear envelope
• lysosomes
• vesicles
• the endoplasmic
• Golgi apparatus
• the plasma
Endoplasmic Reticulum

A series of interconnected membranous sacs and tubules

• the rough ER modifies proteins (ribosomes on its surface give it a
studded look)
• the smooth ER synthesis of carbohydrates, lipids, and steroid hormones;
detoxification of medications and poisons; and storage of calcium ions.
Golgi Apparatus

Sorting, tagging, packaging, and distribution of lipids

and proteins takes place in the Golgi apparatus, a
series of flattened membranes. In plant cells the Golgi
apparatus also makes polysaccharides.

Vesicles are membrane-bound sacs that function in

storage and transport.

Vesicles can fuse with the plasma membrane to release

their contents outside the cell.

Vesicles can also fuse with other organelles within the

Unique Features of Animal Cells: The
consists of two
centrioles (right).
They appear to
have some role
in pulling the
chromosomes to
opposite ends of
the dividing cell.
Unique Features of Animal Cells:
In addition to their role
as the digestive
component and
facility of animal cells,
lysosomes are
considered to be parts
of the endomembrane
Lysosomes also use
their hydrolytic
enzymes to destroy
pathogens that enter
the cell. 
Unique Features of Plant Cells:
• Chloroplasts are
organelles that
carry out
photosynthesis to
make food from
• have their own
DNA and
• contain a green
pigment called
Unique Features of Plant Cells:
Vacuoles are membrane-bound sacs that function in
storage and transport. The membrane of a vacuole does
not fuse with the membranes of other cellular
components. Additionally, some agents such as enzymes
within plant vacuoles break down macromolecules.

The central vacuole plays a key role in regulating a

plant cell’s concentration of water in changing
environmental conditions.
The Cytoskeleton

The  cytoskeleton is the network of protein fibers that

help maintain the shape of the cell, secure some
organelles in specific positions, allow cytoplasm and
vesicles to move within the cell, and enable cells within
multicellular organisms to move.
Types of Fibers in the Cytoskeleton

Microfilaments thicken the cortex around the inner edge of a

cell; like rubber bands, they resist tension.
Microtubules are found in the interior of the cell where they
maintain cell shape by resisting compressive forces.
Intermediate filaments are found throughout the cell and hold
organelles in place.
The Cytoskeleton:
Microfilaments function in
cellular movement.
They provide some
rigidity and shape to the
cell. They can
disassemble and reform
quickly, thus enabling a
cell to change its shape
and move. 
Important in immune and
muscle cells.
The Cytoskeleton: Intermediate
Intermediate filaments consist of several intertwined
strands of fibrous proteins. They bear tension,
maintaining the shape of the cell, and anchor the
nucleus and other organelles in place.
The Cytoskeleton: Microtubules
Microtubules help the cell resist compression, provide a
track along which vesicles move through the cell, and
pull replicated chromosomes to opposite ends of a
dividing cell. They can dissolve and reform quickly.
Flagella and Cilia

Hair-like structures that extend

from the plasma membrane and
are used to move an entire cell.
Flagella are longer and cells
have 0-3 of them.
Cilia are shorter and usually
cover the whole outside of the
plasma membrane. They may
also be used to move substances
such as particulate matter in the
respiratory tract.
Plasma Membrane

Both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells have a plasma membrane,

a phospholipid bilayer with embedded proteins, that separates the
internal contents of the cell from its surrounding environment.

The plasma membranes of cells that specialize in

absorption are folded into fingerlike projections
called microvilli.
Plant Cell Junctions

Plant cells are connected and communicate with each

other via plasmodesmata, channels that pass between
cell walls of adjacent plant cells
Animal Cell Junctions

Animal cells communicate via their extracellular matrices

and are connected to each other via tight junctions,
desmosomes, and gap junctions.
The Extracellular
The extracellular
matrix holds cells
together to form tissues
and enables cells within
a tissue to communicate.

When protein receptors

on the surface of the
plasma membrane of an
animal cell bind to a
substance in the
extracellular matrix, a
chain of reactions begins
that changes activities
taking place within the
Animal Cell Junctions: Gap Junctions
Gap junctions are channels between adjacent cells that
allow for the transport of ions, nutrients, and other
substances that enable cells to communicate. They are
important in cardiac muscle.
Animal Cell Junctions: Tight Junction

A tight
junction is a
watertight seal
between two
adjacent cells.
• found in
• prevents
Animal Cell Junctions: Desmosomes

join two adjacent
cells together and
maintain the cells
in a sheet-like
formation in
organs and
tissues that
stretch, like the
skin, heart, and
Cell Walls
The cell wall is a rigid covering that protects the cell,
provides structural support, and gives shape to the cell.
Fungal and protistan cells also have cell walls, as do
some prokaryotic cells. While the chief component of
prokaryotic cell walls is peptidoglycan, the major organic
molecule in the plant cell wall is cellulose (below).
Table 1. Components of Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells
Component Components of Prokaryotic and
Present in
in Plant
Provides turgorEukaryotic Cells Cells?
pressure to plant cells as
fluid inside the central vacuole; site of many
Cytoplasm Yes Yes Yes
metabolic reactions; medium in which
organelles are found
Cell organelle that houses DNA and directs
Nucleus No Yes Yes
synthesis of ribosomes and proteins
Darkened area within the nucleus where
Nucleolus No Yes Yes
ribosomal subunits are synthesized.
Ribosomes Protein synthesis Yes Yes Yes
Mitochondria ATP production/cellular respiration No Yes Yes
Oxidizes and breaks down fatty acids and
Peroxisomes No Yes Yes
amino acids, and detoxifies poisons
Modifies proteins and synthesizes lipids No Yes Yes
Modifies, sorts, tags, packages, and
Golgi apparatus No Yes Yes
distributes lipids and proteins
Vesicles and Storage and transport; digestive function in
No Yes Yes
vacuoles plant cells
Unspecified role in cell division in animal
Centrosome No Yes No
cells; source of microtubules in animal cells
Digestion of macromolecules; recycling of
Lysosomes No Yes No
Table 1. Components of Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells Continued
Present in
Cell Present in Present in
Component Components of Prokaryotic and
Prokaryotes? Animal Cells?
Eukaryotic Cells Continued
Maintains cell’s shape, secures
No No Yes

organelles in specific positions, allows

Cytoskeleton cytoplasm and vesicles to move Yes Yes Yes
within cell, and enables unicellular
organisms to move independently
No, except
for some
Flagella Cellular locomotion Some Some
plant sperm
Cellular locomotion, movement of
Cilia particles along extracellular surface Some Some No
of plasma membrane, and filtration
Separates cell from external
environment; controls passage of
organic molecules, ions, water, Yes Yes Yes
oxygen, and wastes into and out of
Protection, structural support and Yes, primarily
Cell wall No primarily
maintenance of cell shape peptidoglycan
Practice Question

In this unit we considered the different cell components

of cells and focused on the differences between
prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and the differences
between plant and animal cells. Which of the cell
components (listed on the last two slides) are found in
fungi and protists?
Quick Review

• Why and how are light microscopes and electron

microscopes used in biology?
• What is the structure and function of membrane-bound
organelles found in eukaryotic cells?
• What are the components of the cytoskeleton?
• What are cell surface specializations?