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Cell: Cell is called the fundamental unit of life.

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 cell’s 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.


 Robert Hooke was the first to discover cell (1665).

 Leeuwenhoek was the first to discover free living cells in pond water (1674).
 Robert Brown discovered the nucleus (1831).
 Purkinje coined the term ‘protoplasm for the fluid substance of the cell (1839).
 Schleiden (1838) and Schwann (1839) proposed the Cell Theory. Virchow (1855)
made further addition to the cell theory.

The discovery of electron microscope (1940) made it possible to study the structures of cell

CELL THEORY (Schleiden, Schwann and Virchow):

 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.

Types of organisms

On the basis of no. of cells, organisms are of two types:

(i) Unicellular Organism
(ii) Multicellular Organism

(i) Unicellular Organism: These organisms are single celled which perform all the functions.
Example: Amoeba, paramecium, bacteria.

(ii) Multicellular Organism: Many cells grouped together to perform different function in
the body and also form various body parts. Example: fungi, plants, animals.

• The shape and size of cell are different according to the kind of function they perform.
There is division of labour in cells.

• Each cell has certain kind of cell organelles to perform different type of function like
mitochondria for respiration.

Types of cells

• There are two types of cells:

(i) Prokaryotes
(ii) Eukaryotes
Prokaryotes Eukaryotes

Cells of organism lacks nuclear membrane Cells of organism have nuclear membrane.
Nucleolus is absent. Nucleolus is present.
Single chromosomes. Single or multi chromosomes.
Reproduction is always asexual. Reproduction is both sexual and asexual.
Always unicellular. Often multicellular.
Membrane bound cell organelles are absent. Membrane bound organelles are present like
Centriole is absent. Centriole is present only in animals cell.
Cell division is by binary fission. Cell division is by mitosis or meiosis

Example: Bacteria, Blue green algae, etc Example: Fungi, Plant cell, Animal cell etc.


• The spontaneous movement of a substance from a region of high concentration to the region
of low concentration is called diffusion.
• Some substances like carbon dioxide or oxygen can move across the cell membrane by a
process called diffusion. Cell also obtains nutrition from the environment.


• The movement of water molecules through selectively permeable membrane along the
concentration gradient is called osmosis.
• Plant cell tend to obtain water through osmosis.

Hypotonic or Hypertonic or Isotonic solution

Name of the solution Condition Result
Hypotonic solution Medium surrounding cell has Cell will gain water by
higher water concentration osmosis and likely to
than cell. swell up.
Isotonic solution Medium has exactly same Water crosses the cell
water concentration as the membrane in both directions.
Cell. Cell will stay the same size.
Hypertonic solution Medium has lower Water crosses
concentration of water than the cell in both directions,
the cell. but more water leaves the
cell than enters it.


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.
A cell is enclosed in a membranous casing and is filled with a liquid substance which is
called the cytoplasm. There are many cell organelles in a typical cell. Some of the main
structures of a cell are as follows:

Cell wall: Cell wall is another rigid outer covering in addition to the plasma membrane found
in plant cell. The cell wall lies outside the plasma membrane. Cell wall is made of cellulose.
Cellulose is a complex substance which provides structural strength to plants. 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.
Function of Cell Wall

• Cell walls permit the cells of plants, fungi and bacteria to withstand very dilute (hypotonic)
external media without bursting.
• In such media the cells tend to take up water by osmosis. The cell swells, building up
pressure against the cell wall. The wall exerts an equal pressure against the swollen cell.
Because of cell wall, cells can withstand much greater changes in the surrounding medium
than animal cells.

Plasma membrane: Plasma membrane is a semi-permeable membrane. It also prevents

movement of some other materials. The cell membrane is called selectively permeable
membrane. This is the outermost covering of the cell that separates the contents of the cell
from its external environment. The plasma membrane allows or permits the entry and exit of
some materials in and out of the cell. It is composed of bilayer of lipid and protein.

Properties of Plasma membrane

• It is flexible (made up of organic molecules called lipids and proteins).

• Its flexibility enables cell to engulf in food and other from the external environment. This
process is called endocytosis. Amoeba acquire food through this process.

Functions of Plasma membrane

• It permits the entry and exit of some materials in and out of the cell.
• It prevents movement of some other materials not required for the cell as it acts like
selectively permeable membrane.
∙Plasma membrane provides a container to the cytoplasm.
∙It facilitates passage of various substances in and out of the cell.
• When a living plant cell loses water through osmosis there is shrinkage or contraction of the
contents of the cell away from the cell wall. This phenomenon is known as plasmolysis.
Nucleus: It is called the brain of
the cell as it controls all the
activities of cell. Nucleus is dense
and spherical organelle.Nucleus is
covered by double membrane; both
forming nuclear envelopes called
nuclear membrane. 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

Functions of the nucleus

Nucleus controls all the functions of the cell.
Nucleus is the storehouse of genes. Without nucleus, cell can neither survie nor shows
specialized activities.

Mitochondria: Mitochondrion is a capsule-like, small rod-shaped structure. It is a double

membrane structure. Outer membrane is smooth whereas its inner membrane is projected
into numerous finger-like structures; called cristae. 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.

Functions of Mitochondria:-
Cellular respiration is done here; due to this, mitochondria are also known as the
‘powerhouse of the cell’.
They provide energy for the vital activities of living cells.

Endoplasmic Reticulum:
Endoplasmic reticulum is a
mesh-like structure which is
composed of numerous
tubes. It extends from the
plasma membrane to the
nuclear membrane. 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.
Smooth ER has no

Function of ER: It gives internal support to the cell.

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 many substances in the cell.
Rough ER helps in synthesis and transportation of proteins, while smooth ER helps in
synthesis and transport of lipids.
It helps in the formation of plasma membrane and Golgi bodies.

Golgi Complex: Golgi Complex / Golgi body/ Golgi apparatus was discovered by Camillo
Golgi. It is composed of many sac-like structures which are stacked one above (parallel)
Functions of Golgi Complex:
Golgi complex is responsible to store, modify, package and dispatching of various substances
in the cell.
They help in formation of lysosomes.

Lysosome: Lysosome are small , spherical and sac-like structures and they are derived from
Golgi complex. Lysosome contains digestive enzymes enclosed in a membrane. They are
found in eukaryotic cells mostly in animals.

Functions of lysosome: The enzymes in the lysosome digest foreign particles and thus
destroy them.
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’.
They help to keep the cell clean.

Ribosome: These are tiny dot like structures interspersed (scatter among them) in the
cytoplasm and also on the surface of Rough ER. Ribosome is responsible for protein
synthesis. They are made up of Ribo Nucleic Acid (RNA) and proteins. In prokaryotic cell,
ribosomes are of 70 types, while in eukaryotic cells, ribosomes are of 80 types.

Plastids: These are usually spherical or discoidal in shape, somewhat similar to

mitochondria; in appearance. They are double membrane boud arganelles. Plastids are found
in plant cells alone. They are of three types, chromoplast, leucoplast and Chloroplasts.
Colourful plastids are called chromoplast and colourless plastids are called leucoplast.
Chloroplast is green in colour containing chlorophyll. Plastids too have their own DNA and

Functions of Plastids: Leucoplasts are responsible for storing food; such as carbohydrates,
protein and lipid. Chromoplasts impart various colours to the plant parts they give colour to
flowers and leaves. A leaf of a plant is green in colour because of chloroplast. Chloroplast is
the site of photosynthesis.

Vacuoles: These are fluid filled chambers and are often seen in many cells. Vacuoles are
very large and permanent in plant cells. A plant cell usually has single but large vacuole,
which occupies almost 90% space inside the cell. Due to this, other organelles including
nucleus shift towards plasma membrane. Vacuoles are much smaller and very few in animal
cells, and temporary too.

Plant Cell Vs Animal Cell

Plant cell Animal cell
Cell wall present Cell wall absent
Plastids present Plastids absent
Vacuole is usually very large and single Vacuoles are much smaller an may be absent