Cell are the structural and functional units of all living organisms. Some organisms, such as bacteria, are unicellular, consisting of a single cell. Other organisms, such as humans, are multicellular, or have many cells-an estimated 100,000,000,000,000 cells! Each cell is an amazing world unto itself: it can take in nutrients, convert these nutrients into energy, carry out specialized functions, and reproduce as necessary. Even more amazing is that each cell stores its own set of instructions for carrying out each of these activities.
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Prokaryotic Cells – organisms that are lack of nuclear membrane, the membrane that surrounds the nucleus of a cell. Bacteria are the best known and most studied form of prokaryotic organisms, although the recent discovery of a second group of prokaryotes, called archaea, has provided evidence of a third cellular domain of life and new insights into the origin of life itself.
– prokaryotes are unicellular organisms that do not develop or differentiate into multicellular forms.
– are capable of inhabiting almost every place on the earth, from the deep ocean, to the edges of hot springs, to just about every surface of our bodies.
Prokaryotes are distinguished from eukaryotes on the basis of nuclear organization, specifically their lack of a nuclear membrane. Prokaryotes also lack any of the intracellular organelles and structures that are characteristic of eukaryotic cells. Most of the functions of organelles, such as mitochondria, chloroplasts, and the Golgi apparatus, are taken over by the prokaryotic plasma membrane. Prokaryotic cells have three architectural regions: appendages called flagella and pili-proteins attached to the cell surface; a cell envelope consisting of a capsule, a cell wall, and a plasma membrane; and a cytoplasmic region that contains the cell genome (DNA) and ribosomes and various sorts of inclusions.
Eukaryotes include fungi, animals, and plants as well as some unicellular organisms. Eukaryotic cells are about 10 times the size of a prokaryote and can be as much as 1000 times greater in volume. The major and extremely significant difference between prokaryotes and eukaryotes is that eukaryotic cells contain membrane-bound compartments in which specific metabolic activities take place. Most important among these is the presence of a nucleus, a membrane-delineated compartment that houses the eukaryotic cell’s DNA. It is this nucleus that gives the eukaryote-literally, true nucleus-its name.
Cell Structures: The Basics
The Plasma Membrane-A Cell’s Protective Coat
The outer lining of a eukaryotic cell is called the plasma membrane. This membrane serves to separate and protect a cell from its surrounding environment and is made mostly from a double layer of proteins and lipids, fat-like molecules. Embedded within this membrane are a variety of other molecules that act as channels and pumps, moving different molecules into and out of the cell. A form of plasma membrane is also found in prokaryotes, but in this organism it is usually referred to as the cell membrane.
The Cytoskeleton-A Cell’s Scaffold
The cytoskeleton is an important, complex, and dynamic cell component. It acts to organize and maintain the cell’s shape; anchors organelles in place; helps during endocytosis, the uptake of external materials by a cell; and moves parts of the cell in processes of growth and motility. There are a great number of proteins associated with the cytoskeleton, each controlling a cell’s structure by directing, bundling, and aligning filaments.
The Cytoplasm-A Cell’s Inner Space
Inside the cell there is a large fluid-filled space called the cytoplasm, sometimes called the cytosol. In prokaryotes, this space is relatively free of compartments. In eukaryotes, the cytosol is the “soup” within which all of the cell’s organelles reside. It is also the home of the cytoskeleton. The cytosol contains dissolved nutrients, helps break down waste products, and moves material around the cell through a process called cytoplasmic streaming. The nucleus often flows with the cytoplasm changing its shape as it moves. The cytoplasm also contains many salts and is an excellent conductor of electricity, creating the perfect environment for the mechanics of the cell. The function of the cytoplasm, and the organelles which reside in it, are critical for a cell’s survival.
Two different kinds of genetic material exist: deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). Most organisms are made of DNA, but a few viruses have RNA as their genetic material. The biological information contained in an organism is encoded in its DNA or RNA sequence.
Prokaryotic genetic material is organized in a simple circular structure that rests in the cytoplasm. Eukaryotic genetic material is more complex and is divided into discrete units called genes. Human genetic material is made up of two distinct components: the nuclear genome and the mitochondrial genome. The nuclear genome is divided into 24 linear DNA molecules, each contained in a different chromosome. The mitochondrial genome is a circular DNA molecule separate from the nuclear DNA. Although the mitochondrial genome is very small, it codes for some very important proteins.
The human body contains many different organs, such as the heart, lung, and kidney, with each organ performing a different function. Cells also have a set of “little organs”, called organelles, that are adapted and/or specialized for carrying out one or more vital functions. Organelles are found only in eukaryotes and are always surrounded by a protective membrane. It is important to know some basic facts about the following organelles.
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The Nucleus-A Cell’s Center
The nucleus is the most conspicuous organelle found in a eukaryotic cell. It houses the cell’s chromosomes and is the place where almost all DNA replication and RNA synthesis occur. The nucleus is spheroid in shape and separated from the cytoplasm by a 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. During processing, DNA is transcribed, or synthesized, into a special RNA, called mRNA. This mRNA is then transported out of the nucleus, where it is translated into a specific protein molecule. In prokaryotes, DNA processing takes place in the cytoplasm.
The Ribosome-The Protein Production Machine
Ribosomes are found in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. The ribosome is a large complex composed of many molecules, including RNAs and proteins, and is responsible for processing the genetic instructions carried by an mRNA. The process of converting an mRNA’s genetic code into the exact sequence of amino acids that make up a protein is called translation. Protein synthesis is extremely important to all cells, and therefore a large number of ribosomes-sometimes hundreds or even thousands-can be found throughout a cell.
Ribosomes float freely in the cytoplasm or sometimes bind to another organelle called the endoplasmic reticulum. Ribosomes are composed of one large and one small subunit, each having a different function during protein synthesis.
2. Describe and distinguish between the cell and tissue organizations and systems.
Tissues are the collection of similar cells that group together to perform a specialized function. The four primary tissue types in the human body: epithelial tissue, connective tissue, muscle tissue and nerve tissue.
Epithelial Tissue – The cells are pack tightly together and form continuous sheets that serve as linings in different parts of the body. It serves as membranes lining organs and helping to keep the body’s organs separate, in place and protected. Some examples of epithelial tissue are the outer layer of the skin, the inside of the mouth and stomach, and the tissue surrounding the body’s organs.
Connective Tissue – There are many types of connective tissue in the body. It adds support and structure to the body. Most types of connective tissue contain fibrous strands of the protein collagen that add strength to connective tissue. Some examples of connective tissue include the inner layers of skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bone and fat tissue. In addition to these more recognizable forms of connective tissue, blood is also considered a form of connective tissue.
Muscle Tissue – Muscle tissue is a specialized tissue that can contract. Muscle tissue contains the specialized proteins actin and myosin that slide past one another and allow movement. Examples of muscle tissue are contained in the muscles throughout your body.
Nerve Tissue – Nerve tissue contains two types of cells: neurons and glial cells. Nerve tissue has the ability to generate and conduct electrical signals in the body. These electrical messages are managed by nerve tissue in the brain and transmitted down the spinal cord to the body.
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