<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Name examples of prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms
  • Compare and contrast prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells
  • Describe the relative sizes of different kinds of cells
  • Explain why cells must be small

Cells fall into one of two broad categories: prokaryotic and eukaryotic. Only the predominantly single-celled organisms of the domains Bacteria and Archaea are classified as prokaryotes (pro- = “before”; -kary- = “nucleus”). Cells of animals, plants, fungi, and protists are all eukaryotes (ceu- = “true”) and are made up of eukaryotic cells.

Components of prokaryotic cells

All cells share four common components: 1) a plasma membrane, an outer covering that separates the cell’s interior from its surrounding environment; 2) cytoplasm, consisting of a jelly-like cytosol within the cell in which other cellular components are found; 3) DNA, the genetic material of the cell; and 4) ribosomes, which synthesize proteins. However, prokaryotes differ from eukaryotic cells in several ways.

A prokaryote    is a simple, mostly single-celled (unicellular) organism that lacks a nucleus, or any other membrane-bound organelle. We will shortly come to see that this is significantly different in eukaryotes. Prokaryotic DNA is found in a central part of the cell: the nucleoid    ( [link] ).

In this illustration, the prokaryotic cell has an oval shape. The circular chromosome is concentrated in a region called the nucleoid. The fluid inside the cell is called the cytoplasm. Ribosomes, depicted as small circles, float in the cytoplasm. The cytoplasm is encased by a plasma membrane, which in turn is encased by a cell wall. A capsule surrounds the cell wall. The bacterium depicted has a flagellum protruding from one narrow end. Pili are small protrusions that project from the capsule in all directions.
This figure shows the generalized structure of a prokaryotic cell. All prokaryotes have chromosomal DNA localized in a nucleoid, ribosomes, a cell membrane, and a cell wall. The other structures shown are present in some, but not all, bacteria.

Most prokaryotes have a peptidoglycan cell wall and many have a polysaccharide capsule ( [link] ). The cell wall acts as an extra layer of protection, helps the cell maintain its shape, and prevents dehydration. The capsule enables the cell to attach to surfaces in its environment. Some prokaryotes have flagella, pili, or fimbriae. Flagella are used for locomotion. Pili are used to exchange genetic material during a type of reproduction called conjugation. Fimbriae are used by bacteria to attach to a host cell.

Career connection


The most effective action anyone can take to prevent the spread of contagious illnesses is to wash his or her hands. Why? Because microbes (organisms so tiny that they can only be seen with microscopes) are ubiquitous. They live on doorknobs, money, your hands, and many other surfaces. If someone sneezes into his hand and touches a doorknob, and afterwards you touch that same doorknob, the microbes from the sneezer’s mucus are now on your hands. If you touch your hands to your mouth, nose, or eyes, those microbes can enter your body and could make you sick.

However, not all microbes (also called microorganisms) cause disease; most are actually beneficial. You have microbes in your gut that make vitamin K. Other microorganisms are used to ferment beer and wine.

Microbiologists are scientists who study microbes. Microbiologists can pursue a number of careers. Not only do they work in the food industry, they are also employed in the veterinary and medical fields. They can work in the pharmaceutical sector, serving key roles in research and development by identifying new sources of antibiotics that could be used to treat bacterial infections.

Environmental microbiologists may look for new ways to use specially selected or genetically engineered microbes for the removal of pollutants from soil or groundwater, as well as hazardous elements from contaminated sites. These uses of microbes are called bioremediation technologies. Microbiologists can also work in the field of bioinformatics, providing specialized knowledge and insight for the design, development, and specificity of computer models of, for example, bacterial epidemics.

Questions & Answers

what is cell
Saleh Reply
the cell wall is targeted
Rebel Reply
what is rispiration
Liaquat Reply
transpiration in organism
what is biology mean?
Nickey Reply
bio means life logy means study . study about life . physiology. morphology . anatomy and others organisms related topics is termed as biology
Biology is the study life. that the study about living organism
Biology is derived from two Greek words "Bio" "Logos" Bio means life, Logos means study.... So Biology is the study of life
means the study of life
what do you mean by cocervates ?
what is oxidation?
Rose Reply
 the state or result of being oxidized
hahahaha thanks, but my teachers requires a thorough meaning about that
Is the process of oxidizing ,the addition of oxygen to a compound with a loss of electrons, always accompanied by reduction
loss of electron....
thank you. 😊
thank you. 😊
thank you. 😊
what is oxidized
the process or result of oxidizing or being oxidized.
my pleasure
Google itttt.....if need explanation
to rose...
oxidation is the removal of oxygen addition of hydrogen
what is genetic
Chibawa Reply
genetic is the study of inheritance and variation
Nice one genetic is the scientific study of heredity and variation in living organism
Genetic : generally is the scientific study of heredity and variation in living thing .
is the basic structural of inheritance
name the enzymes that i found in the saliva
Valuables Reply
salivary amylase
draw a bacterium cell and label
Kadijah Reply
What are the osmoregulatory functions of the kidney?
bisi Reply
What is ecology
Hebert Reply
it is the study of interaction of living organisms with their environment.
what is cell
Etama Reply
cell is the basic unit of life
cell is the basic structural and functional unit of an living organism
a cell is the smallest and most basic unit of a living thing
cell is the basic unit of life. we are made up of 60,000 billions of cells.Each cell carry out a specific function in the body.
A cell is the smallest basic functioning unit of life.
where is the pectoral gridle located?
Tiania Reply
What is hypotonic
Bright Reply
what is hypotonic
Hypotonic means weak solution
the difference between the two cells
Obeng Reply
explain the courses and the correction of lon term sightedness and short term sightedness
Isaac Reply
long sightedness is said to be like someone that can see far object clearly why short sightedness is someone that only can see near obect

Get the best Biology course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Biology' conversation and receive update notifications?