Eukaryotic Cells

Eukaryotic cells are the type of cells found in all multi-cellular organisms, such and plants, animals and fungi, along with several types of single-celled organisms, such as protists and protozoa. Eukaryotic cells contain specialised mini-organs called organelles, which are self-contained within the cell. A generic eukaryotic cell has approximately 14 different types of organelle, though there are others which are unique to specialised cells. These organelles are as follows; Nucleus: The nucleus contains the cell's DNA, or genome, which codes for the various proteins the cell will need to produce. The nucleus also creates two kinds of RNA (single 'unzipped' strands of DNA which are used to tell the cell how to make proteins), messenger RNA (mRNA) and transfer RNA (tRNA). The nucleus is contained in a membrane called the nuclear envelope. Nucleolus: The nucleolus is found inside the nucleus, and is responsible for transcribing and assembling ribosomal RNA (rRNA) - in English, it uses DNA to make rRNA by 'unzipping' DNA to make its contents readable to the cell. The rRNA is then sent to the ribosomes to tell them how to make proteins. Ribosomes: Ribosomes are the factory floor of the cell; they receive rRNA from the nucleolus and mRNA and tRNA from the nucleus and use their genetic instructions to make proteins from simple amino acids. These proteins are used to maintain and repair the cell, and to be sent around the body (in multi-cellular organisms) for use by other cells. Vesicle: Vesicles are small, self-contained membrane pockets within the cell. They are made by the cell membrane folding in on itself and then pinching itself off. Vesicles have many uses, including metabolism, transport, buoyancy control, enzyme storage and containing chemical reactions. Lysosomes and vacuoles are both types of vesicle. Endoplasmic Reticulum: The endoplasmic reticulum is a complex network of membranes. There are two types of endoplasmic reticulum, rough and smooth. Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum: The rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER) is studded with ribosomes, giving it its rough appearance. The RER provides a site for protein creation within the cell. Smooth Endoplasmic Reticulum: The smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER) lacks ribosomes. Its function varies between different types of cells, but its main functions are to create lipids (fats), phospholipids (a specific kind of fat) and steroids, as well as helping to metabolise carbohydrates and steroids, and to detoxify the cell if it is exposed to a drug. Golgi Complex/Golgi Apparatus/Golgi Body: The Golgi complex is the sorting office of the cell. It modifies, organises and packs proteins created by the ribosomes to be sent around the cell and to be secreted from the cell.

Cytoskeleton: The cytoskeleton is the cell's internal scaffolding. It helps support the cell from the inside and maintain its shape, and can also form into specific structures such as flagella (long, thin whip-like structures that help the cell move around - singular flagellum) and cilia (structurally the same as flagella, but they help move other substances around the cell instead - singular cilium). It also assists in the movement of organelles within the cell. Mitochondria: Mitochondria (singular mitochondrion) are the cell's power plants, producing ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the major chemical energy source of a cell). They also help regulate the cell's metabolism and cue it when it is time for the cell to die. Vacuoles: Vacuoles occur in both plant and animal cells, but are more important to plant cells. They are a specialised type of vesicle used to contain harmful substances or waste products, store water, maintaining the acidity (pH) of the cell or maintaining hydrostatic pressure (pressure applied by fluids, in this case to help maintain pressure within the cell) or turgor pressure (the overall pressure against the cell membrane, which helps the cell hold its shape). The function of the vacuole depends on the needs of the cell. Cytosol: Cytosol, or intracellular fluid, is the liquid inside a cell. Inside a eukaryotic cell, the cytosol and everything in it except for the organelles (chemicals, proteins etc.) is referred to as the cytoplasm; cytosol refers just to the liquid. Lysosomes: Lysosomes function like a liver for the cell, as the acidic enzymes (chemicals which react to specific other chemicals) they contain break down waste products and substances that are harmful to the cell. They are sometimes called 'suicide sacs', as they release their enzymes into the cytosol when the cell is injured or dead. Centrosome: The centrosome produces and contains the cell's centrioles, which are used in cell division by making up the mitotic spindle which separates the two halves of the dividing cell's genetic material. Cell membrane: The cell membrane, also called the plasma membrane, encloses the cell and protects it from the outside. Being selectively porous, it also regulates what goes in and out of the cell. Proteins on the surface of the cell membrane allow the cell to communicate with the outside world with chemical signals. Cell wall: The cell wall occurs only in plants and fungi, and is much tougher than the cell membrane of animals. The cell wall surrounds the cell membrane, providing an additional layer of protection. In fungi, the cell wall is even stronger as it contains a substance called chitin, which is also found in the tough shells of beetles and similar insects - chitinous cell walls only occur in fungi.

Prokaryotic Cells:
Prokaryotic cells are less complex and more primitive than eukaryotic cells, and are often significantly smaller as well. Prokaryotic cells only occur as single-celled organisms. There are two kinds of organisms made up of prokaryotic cells, bacteria and archaea (archaea are visually similar to bacteria, but are genetically much more similar to eukaryotic organisms). Archaea are almost never mentioned in school-level science, so don't worry about them. Prokaryotic cells do not have isolated organelles as eukaryotic cells do; instead, the specialised parts of the cell are free-floating and lack surrounding membranes. They lack nuclei, and keep their genetic material in a patch of DNA and protein called the nucleoid - the nucleoid does not have a nuclear envelope, which distinguishes it from a true nucleus. The specialised areas of a prokaryotic cell are as follows: Cell membrane: As with eukaryotic cells, the cell membrane surrounds and protects the cell, as well as regulating what goes in and out. Some prokaryotes have two cell membranes, one over the other, with the space between called the periplasm. Cell wall: All prokaryotic cells, except for a specific group called Mycoplasma, have cell walls. Capsule: A bacterial capsule, or glycocalyx (plural glycocalyces), helps the cell remain moist and allows it to stick to surfaces. It also helps prevent the cell breaking down if it is consumed by another organism. Not all prokaryotes have capsules, however. Cytoplasm: Everything in a prokaryotic cell is part of the cytoplasm, as none of its internal structures are self-contained and instead all float freely in the cytosol. Nucleoid: The nucleoid is a prokaryotic cell's equivalent of a nucleus, and it performs much the same functions. It contains the genome of the cell, which codes for the cell's protein production. The DNA is usually distributed throughout the cell, able to send messenger RNA straight to the ribosomes. Ribosomes: Prokaryotic ribosomes are significantly smaller than eukaryotic ones, but do exactly the same thing. Cytoskeleton: The cytoskeleton of a prokaryotic cell is simpler than in a eukaroytic cell, but still performs the same function. Flagella: A flagellum is a whip-like 'tail' on the outside of the cell made of the same substance as the cytoskeleton. Not all prokaryotes have flagella, but in those that do they are used mainly in the cell's movement.

Plasmids: Plasmids are small rings of DNA that are created independently of the main genome, and can be transferred between cells via the pili. Plasmid transfer allows the exchange of valuable genetic material, such as the ability to resist antibiotics. Pili: Pili (singular pilus), like flagella, only occur in some species of prokaryotes. They are small, hair-like projections of the cell membrane poking out from the cell's surface, and are used to make channels between the pilus' own cell and another cell, allowing the transfer of plasmids.

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