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All living organisms on Earth are divided in

pieces called cells. Cells are small
compartments that hold all of the biological
equipment necessary to keep an organism
alive and successful on Earth.
A main purpose of a cell is to organize. Cells
hold a variety of pieces and each cell has a
different set of functions. It is easier for an
organism to grow and survive when cells are
present. If you were only made of one cell, you
would only be able to grow to a certain size. You
don't find single cells that are as large as a cow.
Also, if you were only one cell you couldn't have
a nervous system, no muscles for movement,
and using the internet would be out of the
question. The trillions of cells in your body make
your life possible.
Plant vs. Animal Cells
• There are many types of cells. In biology class,
you will usually work with plant-like cells and
animal-like cells. We say animal-like because
an animal type of cell could be anything from a
tiny microorganism to a nerve cell in your brain.
Plant cells are easier to identify because they
have a protective structure called a cell wall
made of cellulose. Plants have the wall; animals
do not. Plants also have organelles like the
chloroplast (the things that make them green) or
large water-filled vacuoles.
Cells have organelles that carry out
various life processes. Organelles are
structures that perform specific functions
within the cell. Different types of cells have
different organelles.
Cell Wall - What's it for?
• A cell wall is a rigid structure that gives support
to a cell. The cell wall is the outermost structure
of a cell. Plants and algae have cell walls made
of cellulose (SEL yoo LOHS) and other
materials. Cellulose is a complex sugar that
most animals can’t digest. The cell walls of plant
cells allow plants to stand upright.
• In some plants, the cells must take in water for
the cell walls to keep their shape. When such
plants lack water, the cell walls collapse and the
plant droops.
Cell Membranes
We have been talking about cells being a unit of
organization in biology. Let's look at the cell
membrane and see how that membrane keeps
all of the pieces inside. When you think about a
membrane, imagine it is like a big plastic bag
with some tiny holes. That bag holds all of the
cell pieces and fluids inside the cell and keeps
any nasty things outside the cell. The holes are
there to let some things move in and out of the
Cytoplasm - Filling Fluid
Cytoplasm is the fluid that fills a
cell. Early on, they didn't know
about the many different types of
fluids in the cell.
Cell Nucleus - Commanding the Cell

The cell nucleus acts like the brain of the cell. It

helps control eating, movement, and
reproduction. If it happens in a cell, chances are
the nucleus knows about it. The nucleus is not
always in the center of the cell. It will be a big
dark spot somewhere in the middle of all of the
cytoplasm. You probably won't find it near the
edge of a cell because that might be a
dangerous place for the nucleus to be.
Protein Construction Teams
• Organelles that make proteins are
called ribosomes. Ribosomes are
the smallest of all organelles. And
there are more ribosomes in a cell
than there are any other organelles.
Some ribosomes float freely in the
cytoplasm. Others are attached to
membranes. Unlike most organelles,
ribosomes are not covered by a
membrane. All cells have ribosomes.
Mitochondria - Turning on the
• Mitochondria are known as the powerhouses of the cell.
A mitochondrion is the organelle in which sugar is
broken down to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
They are organelles that act like a digestive system that
takes in nutrients, breaks them down, and creates
energy for the cell. A mitochondrion is shaped perfectly
to maximize its efforts.
Mitochondria are very small organelles. You might find
cells with several thousand mitochondria. The number
depends on what the cell needs to do. If the purpose of
the cell is to transmit nerve impulses, there will be fewer
mitochondria than in a muscle cell that needs loads of
energy. If the cell feels it is not getting enough energy to
survive, more mitochondria can be created. Sometimes
they can even grow, move, and combine with other
mitochondria, depending on the cell's needs.
Chloroplasts - Show me the
• Animal cells cannot make their own food. Plants cells are
different. Some of their cells have chloroplasts.
Chloroplasts are organelles in plant and algae cells in
which photosynthesis takes place. Chloroplasts are the food
producers of the cell.
• Like mitochondria, chloroplasts have two membranes
and their own DNA. Chloroplasts are green because they
contain chlorophyll, a green pigment found inside their
inner membrane.
• Chlorophyll traps the energy of sunlight, which is used to
make sugar. The sugar produced by photosynthesis is
then used by mitochondria to make ATP.
Endoplasmic Reticulum -
Wrapping it Up
Many chemical reactions take place on or in the
endoplasmic reticulum. The endoplasmic reticulum, or
ER, is a system of folded membranes in which proteins
and other materials are made. The ER is part of the
internal delivery system of the cell. Substances move
through the ER to different places in the cell.

Endoplasmic reticulum is either rough ER or smooth ER.

The part of the ER covered in ribosomes is rough ER

and is usually found near the nucleus. Ribosomes on
rough ER make many of the cell’s proteins. The ER
delivers these proteins throughout the cell. ER that lacks
ribosomes is smooth ER. The functions of smooth ER
includes making lipids and breaking down toxic materials
that could damage the cell
Vacuoles - Storage Bins to the

• Vacuoles are storage bubbles found in

cells. A vacuole is a large vesicle. In plant
and fungal cells, some vacuoles act like
large lysosomes. They store digestive
enzymes and aid in digestion within the
cell. Vacuoles in plant cells also store
water and other liquids. Vacuoles that are
full of water help support the cell. Some
plants wilt when their vacuoles lose water.
Lysosomes - Little Enzyme
• Lysosomes are vesicles that contain
digestive enzymes and are
responsible for digestion or to break
down the cell when it dies. They
destroy worn-out or damaged
organelles and get rid of waste
materials. In addition, they protect the
cell from foreign invaders.
Golgi Complex
• The organelle that packages and distributes
proteins is called the Golgi complex. Lipids and
proteins from the ER are delivered to the Golgi
complex. There, the lipids and proteins may be
modified to do different jobs. The final products
are enclosed in a piece of the Golgi complex’s
membrane. This membrane pinches off to form
a small bubble. The bubble transports its
contents to other parts of the cell or out of the