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Biology lesson

Cell structure and function

The cell is the basic unit of life. All organisms are made up of cells.

Origins of cell theory

Everything started from the invention of the microscope or, rather, of convex lenses. In 1662 Robert Hooke, a noted English scientist, examined section of cork with a convex lens and first used the word cell to describe repeating units within the tissue that looked like a tiny prison cell

An improved microscope
Thirty years later Anton van Leeuwenhoek built a light microscope and observation of the cells continued both in animals and in plants. Since that time, other scientists have limited to observation and only in 1839 Schleiden and Schwann proposed their cell theory

Cell Theory
Main Ideas of Cell Theory are:
1) All living things are made of one or more cells 2) All cells come from existing cells 3) Cells are the basic units of structure & function of living things

Unicellular organisms are

organisms that only have one cell



When people talk about multicellular organisms, they refer to organisms that have more than one cell. This is the case for most animals and plants that can be seen without the use of a microscope. In such organisms, cells are usually specialised. All the cells with the same function are grouped together. Such a group of cells is then called tissue.

From 1930 on, the electron microscope revealed more and more details of the structure of the smallest cell organells. Two types of microscope are in common use today: the light microscope and the electron microscope.

The light one is portable and relatively inexpensive; it is used in school, colleges, hospital and in laboratories. It reveals nucleus, cell wall, vacuoles, ecc.....

Transmitting Electron Microscope (TEM) is much more powerful; it can reveal details of organelles and cell structure such as DNA filaments, flagella and membranes.

The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) reflects electrons from surface and shows the threedimensional structure.

Different types of cell

Sperm cells move by inducing a wave-like deformation in a thin filament, called a flagellum.

The one-celled organism amoeba proteus

A single-celled bacteria of the type: E. coli

Other type of organism propel themselves using cilia (this picture is of a Paramecium).

A human red blood cell

A plant cell from the leaf of a tree

Cell Shape

Diversity of form reflects a diversity of function.

Prokaryotic cell
A cell whose DNA is not located in the membranebound organelle known as a nucleus. Prokaryotes are microscopic forms of life, and all are either bacteria or archaea.

DNA in the bacterial cell is generally confined to this central region (nucleoid). Though it isn't bounded by a membrane, it is visibly distinct (by transmission microscopy) from the rest of the cell interior.

Ribosomes give the cytoplasm of bacteria a granular appearance in electronic micrographs. Though smaller than the ribosomes in eukaryotic cells, these organelles are the site of protein synthesis.

Cell wall structure

A cell wall is a tough, flexible and sometimes fairly rigid layer surrounding a cell, located external to the cell membrane, which provides the cell with structural support, protection, and acts as a filtering mechanism. They are found in plants, bacteria, fungi, algae, and some archaea. Animals and protozoa do not have cell walls.


This layer of polysaccharide (sometimes proteins) protects the bacterial cell and is often associated with pathogenic bacteria because it serves as a barrier against phagocytosis by white blood cells.

Bacteria may have the following appendages:
PILI: These are hollow, hairlike structures made of protein allowing bacteria to attach to other cells. FLAGELLA: are long appendages which rotate by means of a "motor" located just under the cytoplasmic membrane. Bacteria may have one, a few, or many flagella in different positions on the cell. They are composed of microtubes that function in cell movement.

Three domains

Eukaryotic cell
A cell whose primary complement of DNA is contained within a membrane - lined nucleus. Eukaryotic cells have several other organelles in addition to the nucleus. All organisms except bacteria and archaea are single eukaryotic cells or are composed of more eukaryotic cells.

Eukaryotic cells



A highly organized structure within a cell that carries out specific cellular functions. Almost all organelles (meaning "tiny organs") are bound by membranes. The only exception is the ribosome, which has no membrane and is the single organelle possessed by prokaryote cells (bacteria and archaea). The ribosome, like the plasma membrane, cytoskeleton and centrioles are composed of molecular structure. Organelles in eukaryotic cells include the cell nucleus, mitochondria, lysosomes, chloroplasts, and ribosomes, ecc

Animal cell

Plasma Membrane structure

A membrane forming the outer boundary of many cells, composed of a phospholipid bilayer interspersed with proteins and cholesterol molecules and coated, on its exterior face, with short carbohydrate chains associated with proteins and lipids.

Model of plasma membrane

INTEGRAL PROTEIN is a protein of the plasma membrane that crosses the

membrane's hydrophobic interior. PERIPHERAL PROTEIN is a protein of the plasma membrane that lies on the inside or outside of the membrane but it doesnt cross the membrane's hydrophobic interior

Nucleus of cell
The membrane-lined compartment that encloses the primary complement of DNA in eukaryotic cells.

Nuclear envelope
The double membrane that lines the nucleus in eukaryotic cells.

Cytoplasm The region of a cell inside the plasma membrane and outside the nucleus. Usually this region is filled with the jelly-like cytosol containing the cell's extra-nuclear organelles. Cytosol The protein-rich, jelly-like fluid in which a cell's organelles that are outside the nucleus are immersed.

A network of protein filaments that functions in cell structure, cell movement, and the transport of materials within the cell. MicrofiIaments, intermediate filaments, and microtubules are all parts of the cytoskeleton.

An organelle, located in the cell's cytoplasm, that is the site of protein synthesis. The translation phase of protein synthesis takes place within ribosomes.

Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum

The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a special membrane structure found only in complex cells. Parts of the ER are studded with ribosomes-the cell's protein-making machinery. Proteins that require special conditions or are destined to become part of the cell membrane are processed in the ER and then handed off to another organelle called the Golgi apparatus. The Golgi functions as a cellular post office. Proteins that arrive there are sorted, packaged and transported to various destinations in the cell.

Lysosome is
an organelle of eukaryotic cells that contains hydrolytic enzymes involved in intracellular digestion.

They contain a unique collection of about 40 hydrolytic enzymes, including proteases, nucleases, lipases, glycosidases, phospholipases, phosphatases, ecc They digest excess or worn-out organelles, food particles, and engulfed viruses or bacteria.

Mitochondria are an important part of every cell; they contain genetic material.(You must remember the origin of mitochondria!) Mitochondria are responsible for processing oxygen and converting substances from the foods we eat into energy for essential cell functions. Mitochondria produce energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is then transported to the cytoplasm of a cell for use in numerous cell functions.

Plant cell
Plant cells are eukaryotic cells that differ in several key respects from the cells of other eukaryotic organisms. Their distinctive features include: vacuole, chloroplast and cell wall.

A large central vacuole, a sapfilled volume enclosed by a membrane known as the tonoplast maintains the cell's turgor, controls movement of molecules between the cytosol and sap, stores useful material


Vacuoles tend to be large in plant cells and play a role in turgor pressure. When a plant is wellwatered, water collects in cell vacuoles producing rigidity in the plant. Without sufficient water, pressure in the vacuole is reduced and the plant wilts.


Chloroplasts are organelles found only in plant cells. They use sunlight to create energy. Chloroplasts are the site of photosynthesis, a process in which the plant uses carbon dioxide, water and sunlight to create energy in the form of glucose. This glucose is used as food by heterotrophs.

Cell wall
The presence of a cell wall above all other characteristics distinguishes plant cells from animal cells.
Cell walls are not merely outer, inactive covering of the plant cell itself but are critical in function such as: a) Prevent enlargement of the plant cell. b) Also play important roles in the absorption, transport and secretion of substances in plants. The most characteristic component of plant cell walls is cellulose, which largely determines their architecture. Cellulose is made of repeating molecules of glucose attached end to end in a linkage.

Plant versus Animal Cells

Now that you know some important cell organelles let us identify those that distinguish plant cells from animal cells

From the descriptions above, we can identify three organelles unique to plant cells: 1) cell wall (in contrast to a cell membrane in animal cells), 2) central vacuole (regular vacuoles are found in animal cells) and 3) chloroplasts (animals do not perform photosynthesis. This is what makes plants autotrophs and animals heterotrophs.)

Compare and Contrast


Nucleus Endoplasmic reticulum Golgi apparatus Lysosomes Vacuoles Mitochondria Cytoskeleton

Cell membrane Contain DNA Ribosomes Cytoplasm

Compare and Contrast

Animal Cells

Plant Cells


Cell membrane Ribosomes Nucleus Endoplasmic reticulum Golgi apparatus Lysosomes Mitochondria Cytoskeleton

Cell Wall Chloroplasts Central Vacuoles