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Difference between Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cell

Last updated date: 24th Jul 2024
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An Introduction to Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells

Cells are any life's primary unit. Thus it's important to learn and differentiate between the two major cell types- prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. But, knowing them isn't enough. Do you have concepts strong enough to tell the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell? You don't? Then by the end of this article, you'll have a good understanding of both- their similarities and differences! 

What is Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cell? 

Before getting excited about- the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell, it's important to understand them. Not together but individually. The forthcoming section does that for you. So keep reading and learn about prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.

Prokaryotic Cell

The simplest types of cells are- prokaryotic cells. They are found in organisms like archaebacteria and bacteria.  A characteristic that makes them stand out is- the lack of membrane-bound organelles and nuclei. Also if they have a genetic material that’s circular and different from DNA. Organisms that come under prokaryotes are crucial for completing processes like- decomposition and nutrient cycling.

Eukaryotic Cell

In comparison to prokaryotic cells, eukaryotic cells are much more complex. The eukaryotic cells are found in a range of organisms like- plants, animals, fungi, and protists. They differ from prokaryotes by having membrane-bound organelles like- the Golgi apparatus, mitochondria, etc. Eukaryotes exhibit cellular specialisation that’s greater than prokaryotes and are capable of multicellularity.

Difference between Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cell

The two cells- prokaryotic and eukaryotic, form the basis of an organism’s life. This makes it very important to understand the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell. These differences are discussed in the table below:



Prokaryotic Cell

Eukaryotic Cell


Genetic Material

Circular DNA molecules not contained within a nucleus

Linear DNA molecules contained within a nucleus






Membrane-bound Organelles




Cell Size

Generally smaller in size

Generally larger in size


Cell Division

Binary Fission

Mitosis and Meiosis



Single circular chromosomes

Multiple chromosomes



Usually absent




Smaller (70S) ribosomes

Larger (80S) and smaller (70S) ribosomes


Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER)




Golgi Apparatus





Rarely Present







Cell Wall

Present (made of peptidoglycan in bacteria, absent in archaea)

Present (in some eukaryotes, e.g., plants and fungi)



Simple, non-membrane-bound protein filaments

Complex, membrane-bound organelles




Well-developed, consisting of microtubules, microfilaments, and intermediate filaments


Nuclear Envelope








Replication Origin


Multiple origins


Energy Production

Primarily through cellular respiration or fermentation

Primarily through oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria


Extracellular Matrix


Present in some organisms, providing structural support and cell communication

Exceptions/Variations: Characteristics of Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic cell

Biology is a science. What's definite about science? It's never definite. This is why there are exceptions, challenging the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell. Some of them are discussed below:

  • Genetic Material: Some eukaryotes, like certain species of yeast, may have circular mitochondrial DNA in addition to linear nuclear DNA.

  • Introns: Some prokaryotes, such as some archaea, may contain introns.

  • Mitochondria: In some prokaryotes, like Rickettsia (a bacteria) mitochondria appear to be present. One can say they are structures quite similar to mitochondria.

  • Cell Wall: Some eukaryotes, such as animal cells, lack a cell wall.

  • Flagella:  Algae and protozoa are some eukaryotes with flagella present. They are almost identical to prokaryotic flagella. Alongside this, they also share- function and structure.

Similar Characteristics of Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cell

Yes, there is a difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell. But, if one tries to explain prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell- fundamental similarities come to the front. What are they? Learn some of these key similarities in the below write-up:

1. Plasma Membrane: A plasma membrane is present in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. It solely shields the cells from the outside environment. Alongside this, any substance movement in or out of the cells is also regulated by this membrane.

2. Genetic Material: It is another feature that both eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells exhibit. Although the genetic material is present in different structures and at different places, it is indeed present.

3. Ribosomes: For protein synthesis, both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells use- ribosomes. Although varying in size and structure, it serves the same purpose in both.


4. Cytoplasm: A gel-like substance namely cytoplasm is shared between both the cells- prokaryotic and eukaryotic. It acts as a medium for cell processes and homes cell organelles in eukaryotes.


To wrap it all up, cells are of two categories- eukaryotic cells and prokaryotic cells. Don't worry, you can easily differentiate between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. How? Go through the table given in the article above. There are more sections to this article like exceptions and similarities in the cells and their differences.

Upon reading the entire article, all your doubts about the differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell, will be cleared!

FAQs on Difference between Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cell

1. Is DNA the genetic material in prokaryotes?

No DNA is not the genetic material in prokaryotic cells. It is the genetic material found in eukaryotic cells. The DNA  is enclosed within the nuclear membrane and is found in the nucleus of the eukaryotic cell. The genetic material found in prokaryotic cells is free floating and in chromosomal form. This genetic material is circular appearing and a nuclear membrane does not enclose it. One example of prokaryotic cells is a bacterial cell.

2. Is the TATA box present in prokaryotes?

Yes the TATA box is present in the prokaryotes. But, it is also present in the eukaryotic cell too. To differentiate if the TATA box is in the eukaryotic or the prokaryotic cell, one has to look at the transcriptional start. It’s because the spacing of the TATA box from the transcriptional start site in prokaryotes is different from the eukaryotes. The TATA box is a very common promoter sequence found in cells. Its characterized by it getting recognized by the RNA Polymerase II

3. Who is counted among the 5 eukaryotes?

An organism with a cell containing a nucleus and membrane-bound organelles is considered to be in eukaryotes. Some well-known eukaryotic organisms are found in fungi, plants, animals, algae, and protozoans. Therefore eukaryotes are found in both single-celled, independent microorganisms and also in multicellular organisms. The various distinguishable characteristics of eukaryotic from prokaryotic cells are discussed in the table above.