<< 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

Cells fall into one of two broad categories: prokaryotic and eukaryotic. The predominantly single-celled organisms of the domains Bacteria and Archaea are classified as prokaryotes ( pro - = before; - karyon - = nucleus). Animal cells, plant cells, fungi, and protists are eukaryotes ( eu - = true).

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 region within the cell in which other cellular components are found; 3) DNA, the genetic material of the cell; and 4) ribosomes, particles that synthesize proteins. However, prokaryotes differ from eukaryotic cells in several ways.

A prokaryotic cell    is a simple, 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 the central part of the cell: a darkened region called 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 in 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 extend from the capsule in all directions.
This figure shows the generalized structure of a prokaryotic cell.

Eukaryotic cells

In nature, the relationship between form and function is apparent at all levels, including the level of the cell, and this will become clear as we explore eukaryotic cells. The principle “form follows function” is found in many contexts. For example, birds and fish have streamlined bodies that allow them to move quickly through the medium in which they live, be it air or water. It means that, in general, one can deduce the function of a structure by looking at its form, because the two are matched.

A eukaryotic cell    is a cell that has a membrane-bound nucleus and other membrane-bound compartments or sacs, called organelles , which have specialized functions. The word eukaryotic means “true kernel” or “true nucleus,” alluding to the presence of the membrane-bound nucleus in these cells. The word “organelle” means “little organ,” and, as already mentioned, organelles have specialized cellular functions, just as the organs of your body have specialized functions.

Cell size

At 0.1–5.0 micrometers (µm; 1/1,000,000 of a meter) in diameter, prokaryotic cells are significantly smaller than eukaryotic cells, which have diameters ranging from 10–100 µm ( [link] ). The small size of prokaryotes allows ions and organic molecules that enter them to quickly spread to other parts of the cell. Similarly, any wastes produced within a prokaryotic cell can quickly move out. However, larger eukaryotic cells have evolved different structural adaptations to enhance cellular transport. Indeed, the large size of these cells would not be possible without these adaptations. In general, cell size is limited because volume increases much more quickly than does cell surface area. This is because volume is a cubic dimension and surface area is a squared dimension. For example, if X=2, then the surface area (x squared) is 4 and the volume (x cubed) is 8. If x =3, then the surface area is 9 and the volume is 27. As a cell becomes larger, it becomes more and more difficult for the cell to acquire sufficient materials to support the processes inside the cell, because the relative size of the surface area across which materials must be transported declines.

Relative sizes on a logarithmic scale, from 0.1 nm to 1 m, are shown. Objects are shown from smallest to largest. The smallest object shown, an atom, is about 1 nm in size. The next largest objects shown are lipids and proteins; these molecules are between 1 and 10 nm. Bacteria are about 100 nm, and mitochondria are about 1 µm. Plant and animal cells are both between 10 and 100 µm. A human egg is between 100 µm and 1 mm. A frog egg is about 1 mm, a chicken egg and an ostrich egg are both between 10 and 100 mm, but a chicken egg is larger. For comparison, a human is approximately 1 m tall.
This figure shows the relative sizes of different kinds of cells and cellular components. An adult human is shown for comparison. Note that a light microscope is required to view both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Note: 1000 nanometers equals 1 micrometer, 1000 micrometers equals 1 millimeter, and 1000 millimeters equals one meter.

Section summary

Prokaryotes are predominantly single-celled organisms of the domains Bacteria and Archaea. All prokaryotes have plasma membranes, cytoplasm, ribosomes, a cell wall, DNA, and lack membrane-bound organelles. Many also have polysaccharide capsules. Prokaryotic cells range in diameter from 0.1–5.0 µm.

Like a prokaryotic cell, a eukaryotic cell has a plasma membrane, cytoplasm, and ribosomes, but a eukaryotic cell is typically larger than a prokaryotic cell, has a true nucleus (meaning its DNA is surrounded by a membrane), and has other membrane-bound organelles that allow for compartmentalization of functions. Eukaryotic cells tend to be 10 to 100 times the size of prokaryotic cells.

Questions & Answers

Definition of respiration
Muhsin Reply
where does digestion begins
Achiri Reply
in the mouth
EZEKIEL
what are the functions of follicle stimulating harmones?
Rashima Reply
stimulates the follicle to release the mature ovum into the oviduct
Davonte
what are the functions of Endocrine and pituitary gland
Chinaza
what's biology?
Egbodo Reply
Biology is the study of living organisms, divided into many specialized field that cover their morphology, physiology,anatomy, behaviour,origin and distribution.
Lisah
biology is the study of life.
Alfreda
1-chemical level 2-cellular level 3-organ system level 4-tissue level 5-organism level 6-molecules
Dennis Reply
when cell are dead in any part of the body what happen to that place
Dennis Reply
describe the Krebs cycle
Lian Reply
the sequence of reactions by which most living cells generate energy during the process of aerobic respiration. It takes place in the mitochondria, consuming oxygen, producing carbon dioxide and water as waste products, and converting ADP to energy
shea
thanks
Lian
Andy is 1.0 m tall and weighs 45kg Bmi= weight / Height (squared) what's his bmi? Is it high or low?
zafirah Reply
where did our atmosphere came from
Thomas Reply
Our atmospher came from outer space.
R0se
Do mitotic and mitosis mean same?
Abhishek Reply
yes
momo
what are some mechanisms for regulating electrolytes and fluid in the body?
Anita
how do it move
Jaheim Reply
what is biology fall under
Twayne Reply
what is life?
Suliman Reply
define unit membran model?
Suliman
define unit membran model?
Suliman
different between human being and animals
Habeeb Reply
what is fat soluble drugs
Acho Reply
drugs that dissolve mostly in fatty tissues
shea

Get the best Human biology course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Human biology. OpenStax CNX. Dec 01, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11903/1.3
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

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

Ask