The Cell

The basic living unit of the body is the cell. Even though human cells vary greatly in structure and function, they all have common qualities. For instance, the chemical composition of all cells is about 80% water. Furthermore, all cells combine oxygen with protein, carbohydrate, and fat molecules to release energy and perform required cell functions. A cell can be thought of as a tiny chemical factory. It has a control center that tells it what to do and when to do it, power plants for generating energy, and machinery for making products. The cell has two main parts: (1) the nucleus and (2) the cytoplasm. The nucleus is the control center that directs the activities of the cell. A substance within the nucleus known as DNA controls cellular activities by controlling the production of proteins. The cell's structures are built mostly of proteins. In addition, certain proteins called enzymes speed up chemical reactions in the cell. Thus, the kind of proteins a cell makes largely determines the character of the cell. The cytoplasm is the fluid within the cell between the cell membrane and the nucleus. There are numerous small structures found floating in the cytoplasm along with the nucleus. As a group, these small structures are called organelles, which means "little organs," an appropriate name because they function like little organs of the cell. The following is a brief discussion of the most important organelles: The cell membrane or plasma membrane encloses the cell and separates it from its surroundings. The basic structure of the cell membrane is a double layer of lipids. This lipid bilayer serves as a well-guarded gateway between the fluid inside the cell and the fluid around it. Certain substances move through it, but it prevents the passage of others. Large globular proteins are also found floating within the cell membrane; these play important roles in the transport of substances across the membrane. Mitochondria are the "powerhouses" of the cell. A cell may contain hundreds of mitochondria. These sausage-shaped structures produce almost all the energy of the cell in a process known as aerobic cellular respiration. Ribosomes make enzymes and other protein compounds. Their nickname, "protein factories," indicates their important function. Ribosomes may be free floating in the cell or they may be attached to another structure called endoplasmic reticulum. Endoplasmic reticulum is a complex network of membrane-enclosed tubes and spaces within the cell's cytoplasm. There are two types of endoplasmic reticulum: smooth and rough. Smooth endoplasmic reticulum makes and transports fats. Rough endoplasmic reticulum has ribosomes that are attached along its membranes; therefore, it makes and transports proteins. Endoplasmic reticulum is like the "plumbing" of the cell. Golgi bodies consist of a stack of flat, bag-like structures that store and eventually release various products from the cell. Golgi bodies are like the "warehouses" of the cell. Lysosomes are small, round bodies containing many different enzymes, which can break down many substances. A lysosome is the cell's "digestive system."

Cellular Transport Systems
Since the cell membrane does not dissolve in either the extracellular or the intracellular fluid, it forms a barrier for the movement of most substances. However, a few substances can

penetrate the cell membrane and can either enter the cell or leave it, passing directly through the lipid substance itself. There are also large protein molecules found within the cell membrane that can provide transport of substances into and out of the cell. Since these proteins pass completely through the cell membrane, they create an alternate pathway through the cell membrane. Consequently, these proteins are called transport proteins. Transport through the cell membrane occurs by one of two basic processes: passive transport or active transport. As the name implies, passive transport does not require the expenditure of energy or the assistance of a transport protein while active transport does require the expenditure of energy and the the assistance of a transport protein. The primary passive transport process is diffusion. Diffusion is the process by which substances scatter themselves evenly throughout an available space. The situation involving diffusion does not require additional energy for movement to occur. By far, the most abundant substance to diffuse through the cell membrane is water. The process of water diffusing through the cell membrane is known as osmosis. Another passive process that occurs at the cellular level is filtration, a process by which a pressure causes fluid to pass through a semi-permeable membrane which allows the passage of some substances while preventing the passage of others. Active transport is the movement of substances from a lower concentration to a higher concentration with the use of a transport protein and the expenditure of energy. The energy required for this movement is obtained from a very important chemical substance called ATP which stands for adenosine triphosphate. Most substances pass through the cell membrane by passive or active transport; however, large particles or volumes of water enter the cell by a specialized function of the cell called endocytosis. The two principle forms of endocytosis are pinocytosis and phagocytosis. Pinocytosis means the ingestion of small vesicles containing extracellular fluid (water). Phagocytosis means ingestion of large particles, such as bacteria, cells, or portions of degenerating tissue.

Energy of Metabolic Reactions
The chemical reactions of cells depends on efficiently transferring energy from one area of the cell to another. ATP is the molecule that accomplishes this task. It is the "energy currency" of a living cell. Like money, it is available to "buy" cellular activities. The energy needed to make ATP is generated by the breakdown of a glucose molecule in a process known as cellular respiration. Cellular respiration has two phases:

Anaerobic cellular respiration takes place in the cell's cytoplasm in the absence of oxygen in a process also known as glycolysis. This phase yields two molecules of ATP. Aerobic cellular respiration takes place in the cell's mitochondria in the presence of oxygen in a process also known as the Kreb's cycle. This phase yields 36-38 molecules of ATP. What is the basic living unit of the body? What are the two main parts of a cell? What is the nucleus? What is the cytoplasm? What are organelles? What is the cell membrane?


Questions for Discussion and Review: “The Cell”
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

7. What is the basic structure of the cell membrane? 8. What is another name for the structure of the cell membrane? 9. What is found floating in the cell membrane? 10. What is the function of globular proteins? 11. What is the “powerhouse” of the cell? 12. What is the name of the process that occurs inside the mitochondria that creates energy? 13. What is the name of the organelle that produces proteins? 14. What is the endoplasmic reticulum? 15. What are the two different types of endoplasmic reticulum? 16. What is the difference between smooth and rough endoplasmic reticulum? 17. What are golgi bodies? 18. What are lysosomes? 19. What constitutes a barrier for the movement of substances through the cell? 20. What are transport proteins and what are their functions? 21. What are the two types of transport? 22. Which type of transport requires energy? 23. Which type of transport does not require energy? 24. What is the primary transport process used by the cell? 25. What is diffusion? 26. What is osmosis? 27. What is filtration? 28. What is active transport? 29. Which active transport mechanism has been studied the most? 30. What is pinocytosis? 31. What is phagocytosis? 32. What is ATP? 33. What is the name of the two processes that create ATP? 34. What is anaerobic respiration? 35. What is aerobic respiration? 36. Where does anaerobic respiration occur? 37. Where does aerobic respiration occur? 38. Where does the energy needed to make ATP come from? 39. How much ATP is made by anaerobic respiration? 40. How much ATP is made by aerobic respiration? 41. What is another name for anaerobic respiration? 42. What is another name for aerobic respiration?


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