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The cell 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 Cell Theory of Biology
All organisms are composed of cells
The cell is the structural unit of life - units smaller than cells are not alive
Cells arise by division of preexisting cells - spontaneous generation does not
Cells can be cultured to produce more cells
o in vitro = outside organism or cell
o in vivo = inside organism or cell
Properties of Cells
Cells are complex and highly organized
They contain numerous internal structures
Some are membrane bound (organelles) while others do not
Cells contain a genetic blueprint and machinery to use it
Genes are instructions for cells to create specific proteins
All cells use the same types of information
o The genetic code is universal
o The machinery used for synthesis is interchangeable
However, for this to function properly, information transfer must be error free
o Errors are called mutations
Cells arise from the division of other cells
Daughter cells inherit the genes from the mother cells
Binary fission - cell division in bacteria
Mitosis - the genetic complement of each daughter cell is identical to the
other and to the mother cell. This is asexual reproduction
Meiosis - the genetic complement of each daughter cell is reduced by half
and each daughter cell is genetically unique. This is used in sexual
Daughter cells inherit cytoplasm and organelles from the mother cells
o Asexual - organelles from mother cell
o Sexual - organelles predominately from one parent
In eukaryotes, the chloroplasts and mitochondria come from the
egg cell
This can be used to trace the evolutionary origin of the organism
Cells acquire and utilize energy
Plant cells undergo photosynthesis
o convert light energy and CO2 to chemical energy (ATP and glucose)
Most cells respire
o release energy found in organic compounds
o convert organic compounds to CO2 and O2
o make ATP
Cells can perform a variety of chemical reactions
Transform simple organic molecules into complex molecules (anabolism)
Breakdown complex molecules to release energy (catabolism)
Metabolism = all reactions performed by cells

Cells can engage in mechanical activities

Cells can move
Organelles can move
Cells can respond to stimuli
o chemotaxis - movement towards chemicals
o phototaxis - movement towards light
o hormone responses
o touch responses
Cells can regulate activities
Cells control DNA synthesis and cell division
Gene regulation - cells make specific proteins only when needed
Turn on and off metabolic pathways
Cells all contain the following structures:
Plasma membrane - separates the cell from the external environment
Cytoplasm - fluid-filled cell interior
Nuclear material - genetic information stored as DNA
Types of Cells
Pro = before; karyon = nucleus
relatively small - 5 to 10 um
lack membrane-bound organelles
earliest cell type
Originally thought to be prokaryotes
relatively small - 5 to 10 um
lack membrane-bound organelles
Usually live in extreme environments (thermophiles, halophiles, etc)
Eu = true; karyon = nucleus
contain membrane-bound organelles
Evolved from prokaryotes by endosymbiotic association of two or more
Include Protists, Fungi, Animals, and Plants
Features of Prokaryotic Cells
Capsule - outer sticky protective layer
Cell Wall - rigid structure which helps the bacterium maintain its shape
o this is in NO way the same as the cell wall of a plant cell
Plasma membrane - separates the cell from the environment
Mesosome - infolding of plasma membrane to aid in compartmentalization
Nucleoid - region where nakedDNA is found
o semi-fluid cell interior
o no membrane-bound organelles
o location for metabolic enzymes
o location of ribosomes for protein synthesis
Properties of Eukaryotic Cells

Features shared with Prokaryotic cells

o Rigid cell wall
Plant cells, some Fungi, some Protists
Animal cells lack cell wall
o Plasma membrane
o Cytoplasm with ribosomes
o Nuclear material
Cytoskeleton - flexible tubular scaffold of microfilaments
o maintains cell shape and provides support
o anchors organelles & enzymes to specific regions of the cell
o contractility and movement (amoeboid movement)
o intracellular transport - tracks for vesicle and organelle movement by
motor proteins
Cytoskeleton components
o Microfilaments
solid protein (actin) which is assembled at one end and
disassembled at the other end
o Intermediate filaments - rope-like fibrous proteins
provide structural reinforcement
anchor organelles
keep nucleus in place
o Microtubules - hollow tubes of tubulin (a globular protein)
maintains cell shape
anchor organelles
movement of organelles
track for motor proteins
Cilia and Flagella - involved in cellular movement
o composed of microtubules
o cilia - short, numerous, complex
o flagella - longer, fewer, less complex
o both arranged in a 9+2 pattern with dynein arms projecting outward
o Double membrane with pores
o Outer membrane continuous with ER
o Nuclear matrix - protein-containing fibrilar network
o Nucleoplasm - the fluid substance in which the solutes of the nucleus
are dissolved
o Chromosomes - protein and DNA complexes
o Nucleolus - involved in the synthesis and assembly of ribosomes
Endomembrane System
o Endoplasmic Reticulum - an extensive membranous network
continuous with the outer nuclear membrane.
Rough ER - has ribosomes and is involved in secreted protein
Smooth ER - lacks ribosomes and is involved in membrane lipid
o Golgi Apparatus

Flattened vesicles in stacks which receive protein from ER

Form secretory vesicles to transport proteins to different parts of
the cell (vacuole, lysosome, etc) or for secretion
cis face - "receiving" side of Golgi apparatus
trans face - "shipping" side of Golgi apparatus
o Lysosome
found only in animal cells
contain enzymes for use in the hydrolytic breakdown of
o Peroxisome
Eukaryotic organelle that degrades fatty acids and amino acids
Also degrades the resulting hydrogen peroxide
Plant Central Vacuole - major storage space in center of plant cell with
many functions
o Digestive - break down of macromolecules
o Storage - ions, sugars, amino acids, toxic waste
o Maintain cell rigidity - high ionic concentration generates high water
Images of Vesicle Transport Between Endomembrane Organelles
o Found in ALL eukaryotic cells (yes, even in plant cells)
o Site of aerobic respiration
sugars + O2 - - > ATP + CO2 + H2O
o Contain DNA which codes for mitochondrial proteins, ribosomes, etc.
o Divide by a process similar to binary fission when cell divides
o Enclosed in a double membrane system
Inner Membrane forms the Cristae (invaginations into interior
Site of energy generation
Matrix is the soluble portion of the mitochondira
Site of carbon metabolism
Location of mDNA
Site of mitochondrial protein synthesis
o Found only in plant cells
o Site of photosynthesis
conversion of solar energy to chemical energy in the form of ATP
and sugars
o Contain DNA which codes for chloroplast proteins, ribosomes, etc.
o Divide when plant cell divides
o Enclosed in a double membrane envelope that does not invaginate into
the chloroplast
o Thylakoid is a third internal membrane system
contains membrane-bound photosynthetic pigments
site of photochemistry (the conversion of light energy to ATP)
site of O2 generation
o Stroma is soluable portion of chloroplast
site of CO2 fixation
site of sugar synthesis (carbon metabolism)

location of cpDNA
site of chloroplast protein synthesis

o Technically not an organelle, since there is no membrane, but they are
prominent cellular structures and usually lumped in with the organelles
o The "factories" of the cell - involved in protein synthesis
o Facilitate the specific coupling of tRNA anticodons with mRNA codons
during protein synthesis
o May either be free or bound to ER
o Made up of two subunits, the large and the small subunit
o Both subunits are constructed out of protein and RNA (called rRNA)
o The ribosomes of prokaryotes and eukaryotes vary slightly with regard
to size and shape

Endosymbiotic Origin of Chloroplasts and Mitochondria

Free-living prokaryote eaten by host
Genes transferred to host nucleus
Some genes retained but most lost - can no longer survive outside of host
Symbiotic relationship
o photosynthetic symbiont provides sugar - degenerates to form
o aerobic symbiont provides a more efficient energy generation system degenerates to form mitochondria
o host provides stable environment, nutrients, energy, and most proteins
Evidence for Endosymbiotic Theory
o Chloroplasts and mitochondria have DNA
does not code for all proteins
some genes in nucleus
proteins imported rom cytoplasm
o Organelle proteins similar to bacterial form
o Ribosome structure and metabolic enzymes more similar to bacterial
Cell Membranes
According to cell theory, cells are the main unit of organization in biology. Whether
you are a single cell or a blue whale with trillions of cells, you are still made of cells.
All cells are contained by a cell membrane that keeps 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 cell.
Flexible Containers
The cell membrane is not a solid structure. It is made of millions of smaller
molecules that create a flexible and porous
container.Proteins and phospholipids make up most of the membrane structure.
The phospholipids make the basic bag. The proteins are found around the holes and
help move molecules in and out of the cell. There are also proteins attached to the

inner and outer surfaces of the membrane.

Scientists use the fluid mosaic model to describe the organization of phospholipids
and proteins. The model shows you that phospholipid molecules are shaped with a
head and a tail region. The head section of the molecule likes water (hydrophilic)
while the tail does not (hydrophobic). Because the tails want to avoid water, they
tend to stick to each other and let the heads face the watery (aqueous) areas
inside and outside of the cell. The two surfaces of molecules create the lipid
Ingrained in the Membrane
What about the membrane proteins? Scientists have shown that many proteins
float in the lipid bilayer. Some are permanently attached while others are only
attached temporarily. Some are only attached to the inner or outer layer of the
membrane while the transmembrane proteins pass through the entire structure. The
transmembrane proteins that cross the bilayer are very important in the active
transport of ions and small molecules.
Different Membranes of the Cell
As you learn more about cell organelles, you will find that they all have a
membrane. Organelle membranes do not have the same chemical makeup as the
cell membrane. They have different lipids and proteins that make them unique. The
membrane that surrounds a lysosome is different from the membrane around
the endoplasmic reticulum.
Some organelles have two membranes. A mitochondrion has an outer and inner
membrane. The outer membrane contains the mitochondrion parts. The inner
membrane holds digestive enzymes that break down food. While we talk about
membranes all the time, you should remember they all use a basic phospholipid
bilayer structure, but you will find many variations throughout the cell.
Cell Reproduction
Cell reproduction is the process by which cells divide to form new cells. Each
time a cell divides, it makes a copy of all of its chromosomes, which are tightly
coiled strands of DNA, the genetic material that holds the instructions for all life,
and sends an identical copy to the new cell that is created. This is a process called
Mitosis, and can be found in greater detail by following the link.
Humans have 46 Chromosomes within each of their body cells. Other species
have different numbers of Chromosomes, however. One species of fern has 1262 of
them! As you might guess, the number of chromosomes does not directly impact
the complexity of an organism. As chromosomes vary in size, one human
chromosome can hold genetic information equivalent to the amount of genetic
information in many chromosomes from another organism.
A chromosomes consists of two halves, called Chromatids. These halves are
divided in their center by a centromere. This structure is what attaches to spindle
fibers during mitosis to pull one chromatid to each side of the cell when it divides.
In humans, 44 of the chromosomes consist of autosomes, and the remaining two
are the sex chromosomes. These chromosomes determine the gender of the

organism. (A male has an X and a Y, while a female has to Xs).

In addition, all the chromosomes in an organism excluding the sex chromosomes
are part of a homologous pair. They contain genes to control the same traits but
the genes do not have the same instructions. For example, one chromosome might
have the genes for brown eyes while its homolouge might have genes for blue eyes.
One homolouge is inherited from the mother while the other is inherited from the
The Cell Cycle
The cell cycle is the of steps that cells take to grow, develop, and reproduce. It
can be broken down into five steps:
G1 Phase
S Phase
G2 Phase
M Phase
G1 Phase
During the G1 Phase, the cell grows and stores up energy that it will use during
cell division. Nutrients are taken in and all the usual cell processes take place.
Once cells are fully grown, they proceed on to the S Phase.
S Phase
During the S Phase, the DNA in the cell's nucleus is copied. This means that the
cell then attains two copies of all the necessary DNA for normal cell activity, leaving
a full set to be transferred into the new cell that will be created after the cell
G2 Phase
During this phase, the cell prepares for cell division. This phase represents a
time gap between the time when the cell copies its DNA and when it divides.
M Phase
During this phase, cell division takes place through Mitosis.
During Cytokinesis, the cytoplasm in the cell divides
and the cell's membrane pinches inward and the cell begins to divide. Also, when
plant cells divide, a cell plate forms between the two new cells to divide them. After
this step, the new cell and sometimes the original cell also restart the cell cycle by
beginning G1 Phase again. However, sometimes cells enter G0 phase, which is a
phase where cells exit the cell cycle after they are fully grown and continue to serve
their purpose in an organism.
Other Methods of Cell Reprocuction
Several other methods of cell reproduction exist. These include meiosis and
binary fission. During binary fission, bacterial cells divide asexually. Meiosis, which
is explained in further detail by following the link above, is used to change diploid
body cells into haploid reproductive cells.
Binary Fission
Bacterial cells reproduce through a process called binary fission. During this
process, bacterial cells reproduce by budding new genetically identical organisms
from portions of their bodies. Asexual reproduction is a disadvantage to mitosis
because it negates the positive effects of genetic variation and recombination.
Eukaryotes and Prokaryotes

The distinction between prokaryotes and eukaryotes is considered to be the most

important distinction among groups of organisms. Eukaryotic cells contain
membrane-bound organelles, such as the nucleus, while prokaryotic cells do not.
Differences in cellular structure of prokaryotes and eukaryotes include the presence
of mitochondria and chloroplasts, the cell wall, and the structure
of chromosomal DNA.
Prokaryotes were the only form of life on Earth for millions of years until more
complicated eukaryotic cells came into being through the process of evolution.
Differences between Eukaryotic and Prokaryotic Cells
The difference between the structure of prokaryotes and eukaryotes is so great that
it is considered to be the most important distinction among groups of organisms.
The most fundamental difference is that eukaryotes do have "true" nuclei
containing their DNA, whereas the genetic material in prokaryotes is not
In eukaryotes, the mitochondria and chloroplasts perform various metabolic
processes and are believed to have been derived from
endosymbiotic bacteria. In prokaryotes similar processes occur across the
cell membrane; endosymbionts are extremely rare.
The cell walls of prokaryotes are generally formed of a different molecule
(peptidoglycan) to those of eukaryotes (many eukaryotes do not have a cell
wall at all).
Prokaryotes are usually much smaller than eukaryotic cells.
Prokaryotes also differ from eukaryotes in that they contain only a single
loop of stable chromosomal DNA stored in an area named the nucleoid,
while eukaryote DNA is found on tightly bound and organised
chromosomes. Although some eukaryotes have satellite DNA structures
called plasmids, these are generally regarded as a prokaryote feature and
many important genes in prokaryotes are stored on plasmids.
Prokaryotes have a larger surface area to volume ratio giving them a higher
metabolic rate, a higher growth rate and consequently a shorter generation
time compared to Eukaryotes.
o Prokaryotes also differ from eukaryotes in the structure, packing,
density, and arrangement of their genes on the chromosome.
Prokaryotes have incredibly compact genomes compared to
eukaryotes, mostly because prokaryote genes lack introns and
large non-coding regions between each gene.
o Whereas nearly 95% of the human genome does not code for
proteins or RNA or includes a gene promoter, nearly all of the
prokaryote genome codes or controls something.
o Prokaryote genes are also expressed in groups, known as operons,
instead of individually, as in eukaryotes.
o In a prokaryote cell, all genes in an operon(three in the case of the
famous lac operon) are transcribed on the same piece of RNA and
then made into separate proteins, whereas if these genes were
native to eukaryotes, they each would have their own promoter
and be transcribed on their own strand of mRNA. This lesser
degree of control over gene expression contributes to the
simplicity of the prokaryotes as compared to the eukaryotes.