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Cell Structure and Function

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Types of Cells - Prokaryotic Cell and Eukaryotic Cell

MVSAT 2024

Cells, which are the basic building blocks of all living species, are the basic building blocks of all living organisms. The human body has thousands of cells. They help support the body's structure, absorb nutrition, convert them to energy, and perform specialized functions. Cells also contain the body's genetic material and have the potential to multiply.

Cells are made up of various portions that have a specific function. Organelles, for example, are specialized structures within the cell that perform specific functions. Cells exist in various sizes, shapes, and types in the human body. The concept of a "generalized cell" is proposed for descriptive purposes. It incorporates characteristics from a variety of cells. The cell membrane, the nucleus, and the cytoplasm, which sit in between the two, make up a cell. Dozens, if not thousands, of tiny yet distinct structures known as organelles can be found in the cytoplasm.


It aids biochemical processes by acting as a catalyst. It acts as a platform for the cell's other organelles to function. A cell's cytoplasm is responsible for all aspects of cell proliferation, growth, and replication. Diffusion is a physical phenomenon that permits objects to move across tiny distances within the cytoplasm.


The cytoskeleton is a system of long fibers that sustain the cell's structural integrity. The cytoskeleton is responsible for various functions, including establishing cell shape, facilitating cell division, and allowing cells to move. It also features a track-like system for controlling the movement of organelles and other substances within cells.

The cytoplasm contains organelles.

Cytoplasmic organelles are "mini organelles" that float around in the cell's cytoplasm. Organelles each have their own structure and function in the cell's operation. Organelles are, by definition, membrane-bound structures in a cell. The nucleus is a nice example.

Types of Cells

Cells are categorized into two types – prokaryotic cell and eukaryotic cell depending on the presence or absence of a true nucleus in the cell.

A usual cell contains cytoplasm which is surrounded by a thin membrane known as the cell membrane. The key function of a cell membrane is to protect the constituents of the cell from the outside environment. Selective materials are only permitted to enter the cell through the cell membrane. It involves other cell organelles like mitochondria, nucleus, etc.

Cells are joined together to form tissues, tissues form organs, organs form organ systems such as the circulatory system, digestive system, central nervous system, etc. They combine together to form different forms of life in different shapes and sizes. Most of the organisms are multicellular like humans. There are unicellular organisms like bacteria and protozoa and multicellular organisms like human beings. 

Cell Structure

There are several cells in an individual, and the different kinds of cells include - prokaryotic cells, plant and animal cells. The size and the shape of the cell vary from millimeter to microns, which are usually based on the type of function that it performs. Cells usually vary in their shapes. They could either be rod-shaped, flat, curved, concave, spherical, rectangular, oval, etc. These cells will only be visible under a microscope.

Prokaryotic Cell Structure

They are the first organisms to be existing on our planet earth. Organisms with this cell type, are called prokaryotic organisms (or) prokaryotes. Prokaryotic cells are single-celled organisms, with the deficiency of nucleus and comprise of a capsule, cytoplasm, cell wall, cell membrane, ribosome, nucleoid, plasmids, pili, and flagella.

Prokaryotic Cell General Features

  • The size of a cell varies from 1-10 microns. Few prokaryotic cells vary in their size.

  • They are unicellular, which forms a colony.

  • The shape of the cell contains rod spherical and flat-shaped organisms.

  • Mode of nutrition - A few organisms are photosynthetic, and get nourished on living things and dead things.

  • They reproduce asexually by binary fission, transformation, conjugation, transduction.

Structure and Functions of a Prokaryotic Cell

Capsule: It is the greasy outer coating of the cell wall. The key function of the capsule is to protect the cell from getting dry and also helps in protecting cells from outside pressures.

Cell Wall: It is the stronger and rigid structure, which provides the shape and protects the inside organelles of a cell. It is the middle layer, which lies between the capsule and the cell membrane.

Cell Membrane: It is the inner delicate structure, which plays an important role in regulating the entry and exit of any materials in the cell. It acts as a permeable membrane. It is of about 5-10nm in width, which helps in the oozing of proteins and elimination of waste products. 

Cytoplasm: It is the viscous membrane, which is lying in between the cell membrane and nucleoid. 

Nucleoid: It is the cytoplasm region covering genetic material. The DNA of a prokaryotic organism is one big loop, which is situated inside the nucleoid. It plays an important role in cell division.

Ribosome: It consists of both RNA and proteins. It supports protein synthesis in the cell. They are the tiniest membrane present inside the cytoplasm.

Plasmids: They are the minute membrane of a cell with double-stranded DNA. Plasmids are hardly present in prokaryotic organisms. 

Pili: It is the thinnest tissue of a prokaryotic cell. They consist of a protein complex named pilin and are mostly involved in sticking to the objects particularly during sexual reproduction.

Flagella: It is a membrane that is in a helical shape, and its sizes vary from 19-20nm in diameter and play an important role in the mobility of an organism from one place to another place. 

Eukaryotic Cell Structure

They are cells with a true nucleus. Organisms, with this cell kind, are identified by the term eukaryotes. Animals, plants, and other organisms apart from bacteria, blue-green algae, and E. coli have been grouped into this group. Eukaryotic cells are more complex in comparison to prokaryotic cells. These organisms contain a membrane-bound nucleus with many cell organelles to make several cellular functions within the system. 

Eukaryotic Cell General Features

The size of a eukaryotic cell varies from 10-100 microns.

  • They are multicellular and have membrane-bound organelles.

  • They reproduce either sexually or asexually.

  • Type of nutrition - Autotrophic and heterotrophic

  • KingdomsProtozoa, Fungi, Algae, Plantae, and Animalia are eukaryotic organisms.

Structure and Functions of a Eukaryotic Cell

Plasma Membrane: They are semi-permeable membranes that behave as a boundary of a cell, which protects and splits up the cell from the outside environment.

Nucleus: It is a double-layered wall of Phospholipid bilayer. They are the stockroom for the cell’s genetic materials in the form of DNA and keep all the essential information, which are vital for a cell to control. 

Nuclear Membrane: It is the double membrane layer that surrounds the nucleus and it plays a part in the entry and exit of resources within the nucleus.

Nucleolus: It is the non-membrane-bound organelle, which is located within the nucleus. 

Mitochondria: They are the double smooth membrane, which is in all eukaryotic cells. They are the powerhouse of the cell. It plays a vital part in the synthesis of ATP and transforms glucose into ATP.

Endoplasmic Reticulum: Double membrane organelle, which splits the cell into sections. It is linked to the nuclear membrane of the cell. It plays an important role in protein synthesis, biosynthesis of lipids and steroids, stores and controls calcium, and digestion of carbohydrates. The endoplasmic reticulum is of two type’s rough and smooth Endoplasmic reticula.

Ribosome: It is in the cytoplasm. They are the spot for cells protein synthesis, which is made of ribosomal RNA and proteins.

Golgi Bodies: It is the compacted membrane, which is mostly used to preserve the materials made by the cell. This membrane also helps in storing, carrying materials within the cell. Therefore, it is also named the post office of a cell.

Lysosomes: They are membrane-bound organelles, which have digestive enzymes to break down macromolecules. Lysosome plays a vital part in protecting the cell by destroying foreign bodies entering the cell.

Cytoplasm: Jelly types of organelles, which are in the inner region of a cell. It plays a vital part in keeping a cell stable and keeps the cell organelles distinct from each other.

Chromosomes: The rod-shaped structures, which are made of proteins and DNA. Chromosomes also play a vital part in determining the sex of an individual. 

Plant Cell Structure

Plant cells are eukaryotic cells, with a true nucleus, multicellular large, and progressive membrane-bound organelles. These plant cells are relatively different from animal cells in shape and other several organelles which are only found in animal cells but are absent in plant cells. Depending on structure and functions, plant cells comprise of:

  • Cell Wall: It is the outer layer of a plant cell, which helps in providing the form and strength to the complete plant. A cell wall is made of cellulose that protects and helps the plant to grow.

  • Cell Membrane: A biological membrane that divides living cell organelles from nonliving structures. This membrane plays a vital part in helping a cell to communicate with the outside environment and in carrying proteins and other molecules throughout the cell.

  • Chloroplasts: Green-colored oval-shaped double-membrane organelles, which are the spots of photosynthesis. The green-colored pigment (chlorophyll) located in the leaves helps plants in absorbing solar energy to make food.

  • Golgi Bodies (or) Golgi Complex: The sac-like structures, which are in a cell to manufacture, store, packing, and shipping the substance throughout the cell.

  • Mitochondria: Mitochondria play an important part in liberating energy and they are the powerhouse of a cell. The metabolic processes of the cell are referred to as cellular respiration. Many of the actions that occur during aerobic respiration occur in the mitochondria. Mitochondria are the cell's energy-producing organelles, which keep it alive. Mitochondria are little organelles that float freely within cells. They're digestive organelles that take in nutrients, break them down, and transform them into energy-rich molecules for the cell. There are dozens of mitochondria in specific cells, whereas in others, there are none.

  • Vacuole: They are the fluid bags, which are in great numbers in plant cells. The chief function is this membrane is to preserve food and other waste substances. Vacuoles are the biggest organelles present in plant cells.

Animal Cell Structure

Animal cells are eukaryotic cells, with the existence of a true nucleus; multicellular big and advanced membrane-bound organelles. Similarly, like plant cells, animal cells have similar organelles except for the cell wall, chloroplasts, number of vacuoles, and many more. Due to the deficiency of the cell wall, the shape of an animal cell is uneven. Depending on structure and functions, animal cells comprise of:

  • Cell Membrane: They are semi-permeable membranes covering the cell. It supports holding the cell together and controls the entry and exit of nutrients into the cell.

  • Vacuole: They are the fluid bags, which are in fewer numbers in animal cells as compared to plant cells. The key function is this membrane is to preserve food and other waste substance.

  • Golgi Bodies (or) Golgi Complex: The bag-like assemblies, which are existing in a cell to manufacture, storage, packing and transport the selected particles throughout the cell.

  • Ribosome: It is situated in the cytoplasm. They are the place for protein synthesis, which is made of ribosomal RNA and proteins.

  • Mitochondria: They are bar-shaped organelles, play an important part in liberating energy, and are known as the powerhouse of a cell.

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FAQs on Cell Structure and Function

1. What is the mitochondrial structure?

Mitochondria are constructed in a way that maximizes output. It consists of two membranes. The outer membrane surrounds and protects the organelle the same way as skin does. Multiple folds in the inner membrane generate cristae, which are stacked structures. The mitochondria are surrounded by a fluid called the matrix. Mitochondria are unique because they have ribosomes and DNA, free to move about in the matrix. Another sort of structure that can regulate ion concentrations is granules. Cell biologists are still investigating granule activity.

2. How does cellular respiration take place in mitochondria?

The matrix is made up of water and proteins (enzymes). Such proteins chemically degrade organic molecules like pyruvate and acetyl CoA. Proteins embedded in the inner membrane and enzymes involved in the citric acid cycle release water and carbon dioxide molecules when oxygen and glucose are broken down. The mitochondria are the only elements of the cell responsible for reducing oxygen and eventually breaking it down into the water. Download the Vedantu App if you wish to learn more about these topics. All of the content in the app and on the website has been prepared by experts to be readily understood by students. You can even discover free study content created expressly for competitive examinations and CBSE pupils' normal school curriculum.

3. What function does the chloroplast provide in the plant cell?

Plant cells and eukaryotic algae have chloroplasts, which are photosynthesis-conducting organelles. Chloroplasts capture light and combine it with water and carbon dioxide gas to keep the plant alive. Photosynthesis is the conversion of light energy from the sun into free energy stored in ATP and NADPH by chloroplasts. Chloroplasts are one of the body's many different organelles, and they're thought to have evolved from cyanobacterial endosymbiosis. In this way, they're comparable to mitochondria, although they're only found in plants and protists.

4. What is the role of the organelle ribosome?

Ribosomes are of two types. They are the 70S (composed of 50S and 30S subunits)  found in the prokaryotes and 80S ( composed of 60S and 40S) found in the eukaryotes. The S stands for the Sydverg Unit. A ribosome is a protein-producing micro machine. Ribosomes are made up of specific proteins and nucleic acids. The Translation of information and the Linking of Amino acids are essential to the production of proteins.

5. What distinguishes eukaryotic cells from prokaryotic cells?

The eukaryotic cell can be easily distinguished from the prokaryotic ones depending on some very prominent structures. The most notable difference between prokaryotes and eukaryotes is that prokaryotes lack membrane-bound organelles. Mitochondria, also known as the powerhouse of the cell, the Golgi apparatus, and the endoplasmic reticulum are all missing. They don't have a membrane-bound nucleus, yet the nucleoid region contains the genetic material. A plasma membrane surrounds the prokaryotic cells, and some bacteria also have cell walls.