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CELL: THE FUNDAMENTAL UNIT OF LIFE

Cell is the fundamental unit of life, and that all living things are composed of
one or more cells. All cells arise from other cells through cell division.
In multicellular organisms, every cell in the organism's body derives ultimately
from a single cell in a fertilized egg. In addition, the phenomenon of energy
flow occurs in cells in processes that are part of the function known as
metabolism. Finally, cells contain hereditary information (DNA), which is
passed from cell to cell during cell division.
A cell is capable of independent existence and can carry out all the functions
which are necessary for a living being. A cell carries out nutrition, respiration,
excretion, transportation and reproduction; the way an individual organism
does. Unicellular organisms are capable of independent existence which shows
a cells capability to exist independently. Due to this, a cell is called the
fundamental and structural unit of life. All living beings are composed of the
basic unit of life, i.e. cell.
The cell (from Latin cella, meaning "small room") is the basic structural,
functional and biological unit of all known living organisms. Cells are the
smallest unit of life that can replicate independently, and are often called the
"building blocks of life". The study of cells is called cell biology.
Cells consist of a protoplasm enclosed within a membrane, which contains
many biomolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Organisms can be
classified as unicellular (consisting of a single cell; including most bacteria)
or multicellular (including plants and animals). While the number of cells in
plants and animals varies from species to species, humans contain about
100 trillion (1014) cells. Most plant and animal cells are visible only under the
microscope, with dimensions between 1 and 100 micrometres.
The cell was discovered by Robert Hooke in 1665. He examined thin slices of
cork under a microscope. He saw tiny, empty compartments in the slices and he
called them cellulae, now termed cells. Cork is the dead bark. So, Hooke saw
only dead walls of plant cells. These cells looked like a small rooms. Hence, he
gave each compartment an appropriate name, the cell.

Anatomy
There are two types of cells, eukaryotes, which contain a nucleus,
and prokaryotes, which do not. Prokaryotic cells are usually single-celled
organisms, while eukaryotic cells can be either single-celled or part
of multicellular organisms.
CELL THEORY: The cell theory, first developed in 1839 by M.J. Schleiden and Theodore
Schwann, states that all organisms are composed of one or more cells, that all
cells come from Pre-existing cells, that vital functions of an organism occur
within cells, and that all cells contain the hereditary information necessary for
regulating cell functions and for transmitting information to the next generation
of cells.
All living organisms are composed of one or more cells.
The cell is the basic unit of structure, function, and organization in all
organisms.
All cells come from pre-existing, living cells.
STRUCTURE OF CELL
Shape and Size of Cells: - Cells come in all shapes and sizes. While most of
the cells are spherical in shape, cells of various other shapes are also found.
Most of the cells are microscopic in size, i.e. it is impossible to see them with
naked eyes. Some cells are fairly large, e.g. a neuron in human body can be as
long as 1 meter. The egg of an ostrich is the largest known cell of a living
animal and an average egg is 15 cm long and 13 cm wide.

CELL ORGANELLES

Organelles are parts of the cell which are adapted and/or specialized for
carrying out one or more vital functions, similar to the organs of the human
body (such as the heart, lung, and kidney, with each organ performing a
different function). Both eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells have organelles, but
prokaryotic organelles are generally simpler and are not membrane-bound.
There are several types of organelles in a cell:1) Cell wall: Cell wall is made of cellulose. It is somewhat hard but permeable to
most of the substances. Cell wall is available in plant cells and in cells of
bacteria and fungi. It protects the cell, maintains its shape, Provides support and
strength to it.
2) Cell/Plasma membrane: Every cell, prokaryotic as well as eukaryotic, is
enclosed by a thin covering called Plasma membrane. It is a semi-permeable
membrane. It is composed of bilayer of lipid and protein. The cell membrane, or
plasma membrane, surrounds the cytoplasm of a cell. In animals, the plasma
membrane is the outer boundary of the cell, while in plants and prokaryotes it is
usually covered by a cell wall.
In 1972, Singer and Nicolson proposed Fluid mosaic membrane model
for the membrane structure. Acc. to this, Bio membrane is not solid but viscous
fluid and describes the membrane having a phospholipid bilayer having globular
proteins associated with them. It is made mostly from a double layer of
phospholipids,
which
are Amphiphilic (partly hydrophobic and
partly
hydrophilic). Hence, the layer is called a phospholipid bilayer, or sometimes a
fluid mosaic membrane. Two type of proteins are present known as Peripheral
proteins and integral proteins.

Embedded within this membrane is a variety of protein molecules that act as


channels and pumps that move different molecules into and out of the cell. The
membrane is said to be 'semi-permeable', in that it can either let a substance
(molecule or ion) pass through freely, pass through to a limited extent or not
pass through at all.
It also bears respiratory enzymes. It keeps the cytoplasm intact, particularly in
the bacteria that lack cell wall.
3) Cytoplasm: - A cell is enclosed in a membrane and is filled with a liquid
substance which is called the cytoplasm. It is a semi-fluid, jelly like material. It
consist of an aqueous, structure less substance called cytoplasmic matrix or
cytosol.
It is also known as store house of cell, store raw material needed for the cell.
It contains the various cell organelles and also contains ions and biomolecules
such as minerals, amino acids, vitamins, enzymes etc., for the processes of the
cell.
4) Nucleus: Nucleus is the largest organelle of a eukaryotic cell. In 1682, it was
observed by Anton Von Leeuwenhoek in the RBCs of fishes. The fluid which
is inside the nucleus is called nucleoplasm. Nucleus contains chromosomes
which are important for the functioning of a cell. Chromosomes contain genes
which are the carriers of genetic information.

Nucleus plays an important role during cell division. Nucleus controls all the
functions of the cell. The nucleus is spherical and separated from the cytoplasm
by a double membrane called the nuclear envelope. The nuclear envelope
isolates and protects a cell's DNA from various molecules that could
accidentally damage its structure or interfere with its processing. It has a
relatively fixed position, usually near the centre.
Prokaryotic cells do not have an organized nucleus with a nuclear envelope.
They have a nucleoid, a highly folded circular DNA molecule without a
membrane.
5) Mitochondria: Mitochondrion is a capsule-like structure. It is a double
membrane structure. Mitochondria are the sites of cellular respiration. After
cellular respiration, energy is stored in the form of ATP (Adenosine
triphosphate); in mitochondria. Mitochondria have their own DNA and
ribosomes and hence mitochondria can produce their own protein.
Mitochondria are self-replicating organelles that occur in various numbers,
shapes, and sizes in the cytoplasm of all eukaryotic cells. Mitochondria play a
critical role in generating energy in the eukaryotic cell. Prokaryotic cells are
without mitochondria. Due to Cellular respiration mitochondria are also known
as the Power house of the cell.

6) Endoplasmic Reticulum: Endoplasmic reticulum is a mesh-like structure


(network of thread or wires) which is composed of numerous tubes. It was
named by Porter in 1953. It extends from the plasma membrane to the nuclear
membrane. The ER is present in almost all eukaryotic cells but few cells like
mature RBCs, lack ER.
There are two kinds of endoplasmic reticulum, viz. Smooth ER and Rough
ER. Rough ER has ribosomes on its surface which give it the rough appearance
and smooth ER lack ribosomes. The smooth ER arises from the rough ER by
detachment of ribosomes.
Function of ER: It serves as the transport channel in the cell. Substances are
transported from cell membrane to cytoplasm and to nucleus and vice-versa. ER

also serves the role of packaging and synthesis of many substances in the cell. It
also provides space for temporary storage of products.
7) Golgi complex: Golgi complex was discovered by Camillo Golgi in 1898 in the
nerve cells of owl and bat. It is composed of many sac-like structures which are
stacked one above another. It is present in all eukaryotic cells. Golgi apparatus
originates from the rough ER that has lost its ribosomes.
The primary function of the Golgi apparatus is to process and package
the macromolecules such as proteins and lipids that are synthesized by the cell.
It also plays role in the formation of cell wall and plasma membrane.
8) Lysosome: Lysosome are small sac-like structures and they are derived from
Golgi complex. Lysosome contains digestive enzymes. The enzymes in the
lysosome digest foreign particles and thus destroy them. They digest excess or
worn-out organelles, food particles, and engulfed viruses or bacteria and all
harmful particles. So, it plays important role in Cells protection.
Sometimes, the lysosome may burst open and its content ends up digesting
the contents of the cell. The cell gets killed in the process. Due to this, lysosome
is also called the Suicide bag of the cell. Lysosomes occur in all eukaryotic
cells and lack in few cells such as mammalian RBCs. Prokaryotic cells are
without lysosomes.
9) Ribosome: These are tiny dot like structures interspersed in the cytoplasm and
also on the surface of Rough ER. Ribosome is responsible for protein synthesis.
The ribosome is a large complex of RNA and protein molecules. They each
consist of two subunits, and act as an assembly line where RNA from the
nucleus is used to synthesise proteins from amino acids. Ribosomes can be
found either floating freely or bound to a membrane (the rough endoplasmic
reticulum in eukaryotes, or the cell membrane in prokaryotes).
Ribosomes are found in all cells, prokaryotic as well as eukaryotic. In
prokaryotic cells, they float freely in cytoplasm and in eukaryotic cells, they
occur free in cytoplasm and also attached to the surface of rough ER.
The ribosomes are of two types:-

a) 70 S ribosome: - The 70 S ribosome found in prokaryotic cells and in


mitochondria and plastids of eukaryotic cells. Each ribosome consist of a large
50 S subunit and a small 30 S subunit.
b) 80 S ribosome: - The 80 S ribosome found in the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells.
Each consists of a large 60 S subunit and a small 40 S subunit.
The ribosomes provide space for the synthesis of proteins in the cell. Hence,
they are known as the Protein factories of the cell.
10) Plastids: - These are somewhat similar to mitochondria; in appearance.
Plastids are found in plant cells. They are of two types, chromoplasts and
leucoplasts. The leucoplasts are colourless and occur in the cells not exposed to
sunlight. The chromoplasts are Coloured and occur in the cells exposed to
sunlight. The chromoplasts having light-absorbing green pigment, the
chlorophyll, are known as chloroplasts. Plastids too have their own DNA and
ribosome.
Functions of Plastids: Leucoplasts are responsible for storing food; such as
carbohydrates, protein and lipid. Chromoplasts impart various colours to the
plant parts. A leaf of a plant is green in colour because of chloroplast.
Chloroplast is the site of photosynthesis and provide oxygen to all aerobic
organisms for respiration.
11)Vacuoles:- These are fluid filled chambers and are often seen in many cells.
Vacuoles are very large in plant cells. A plant cell usually has single but large
vacuole. Such a vacuole fills almost the entire space inside the cell. Vacuoles are
much smaller and very few in animal cells.
They play a role in the growth by absorbing water, causing elongation of
cells. They may act as lysosomes and give protection against herbivores.