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The endomembrane system

The endomembrane system    ( endo = within) is a group of membranes and organelles ( [link] ) in eukaryotic cells that work together to modify, package, and transport lipids and proteins. It includes the nuclear envelope, lysosomes, and vesicles, the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus, which we will cover shortly. Although not technically within the cell, the plasma membrane is included in the endomembrane system because, as you will see, it interacts with the other endomembranous organelles.

The nucleus

Typically, the nucleus is the most prominent organelle in a cell. The nucleus    (plural = nuclei) houses the cell’s DNA in the form of chromatin and directs the synthesis of ribosomes and proteins. Let us look at it in more detail ( [link] ).

In this illustration, chromatin floats in the nucleoplasm. The nucleoid is depicted as a dense, circular region inside the nucleus. The double nuclear membrane is perforated with protein-lined pores
The outermost boundary of the nucleus is the nuclear envelope. Notice that the nuclear envelope consists of two phospholipid bilayers (membranes)—an outer membrane and an inner membrane—in contrast to the plasma membrane ( [link] ), which consists of only one phospholipid bilayer. (credit: modification of work by NIGMS, NIH)

The nuclear envelope    is a double-membrane structure that constitutes the outermost portion of the nucleus ( [link] ). Both the inner and outer membranes of the nuclear envelope are phospholipid bilayers.

The nuclear envelope is punctuated with pores that control the passage of ions, molecules, and RNA between the nucleoplasm and the cytoplasm. The DNA in the nucleus is too large to fit through the pores.

To understand chromatin, it is helpful to first consider chromosomes. Chromosomes are structures within the nucleus that are made up of DNA (the hereditary material) and proteins. This combination of DNA and proteins is called chromatin. In eukaryotes, chromosomes are linear structures. Every species has a specific number of chromosomes in the nucleus of its body cells. For example, in humans, the chromosome number is 46, whereas in fruit flies, the chromosome number is eight.

Chromosomes are only visible and distinguishable from one another when the cell is getting ready to divide. This is because the DNA condenses or compacts in preparation for cell division. When the cell is in the growth and maintenance phases of its life cycle, the chromosomes resemble an unwound, jumbled bunch of threads and the DNA is more accessible to be used to make proteins.

We already know that the nucleus directs the synthesis of ribosomes, but how does it do this? Some chromosomes have sections of DNA that encode ribosomal RNA. A darkly staining area within the nucleus, called the nucleolus    (plural = nucleoli), aggregates the ribosomal RNA with associated proteins to assemble the ribosomal subunits that are then transported through the nuclear pores into the cytoplasm.

The endoplasmic reticulum

The endoplasmic reticulum (ER)    ( [link] ) is a series of interconnected membranous tubules that collectively modify proteins and synthesize lipids. However, these two functions are performed in separate areas of the endoplasmic reticulum: the rough endoplasmic reticulum and the smooth endoplasmic reticulum, respectively.

Questions & Answers

Definition of respiration
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in the mouth
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stimulates the follicle to release the mature ovum into the oviduct
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describe the Krebs cycle
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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
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drugs that dissolve mostly in fatty tissues
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Source:  OpenStax, Human biology. OpenStax CNX. Dec 01, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11903/1.3
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