Cell Structure


Cells are living entities made up of a central nuclear region which contains the hereditary material, surrounded on all sides by cytoplasm, which, encompassed by a delimiting membrane, contains all the structures required for biological processes, such as making protein and extracting utilizable energy from food. These events may occur in separate compartments, the organelles, which include the endoplasmic reticulum, the Golgi apparatus, the mitochondria, the chloroplasts and the lysosomes; there is also an internal cytoskeleton.

Keywords: prokaryote; eukaryote; nucleus; cytoplasm; plasma membrane; organelles; endoplasmic reticulum; golgi apparatus; cytoskeleton; mitochondria; chloroplasts

Figure 1.

Cross‐sectional diagram of a generalized eukaryotic cell, revealing the central DNA‐containing nucleus with peripheral cytoplasm, in which can be found many organelles, such as mitochondria, lysosomes, cisternae of rough endoplasmic reticulum, saccules of the Golgi apparatus, secretory granules being released by exocytosis, and endosomes forming by endocytosis. The mitochondria are thought to have arisen by the endocytotic uptake of prokaryotic cells.

Figure 2.

The cytoskeleton of cells helps them to maintain different shapes: for example, (a) a nerve cell with an elongated axonal process; (b) an epithelial cell, in which the cytoskeletal components may help form the microvilli and the cell–cell junctions that hold adjacent cells together and maintain cells in sheets or layers.


Further Reading

Alberts B, Bray D, Lewis J et al. (1994) Molecular Biology of the Cell, 3rd edn. New York: Garland.

Alberts B, Bray D, Johnson A et al. (1998) Essential Cell Biology: An Introduction to the Molecular Biology of the Cell. New York: Garland.

Darnell J, Lodish H and Baltimore D (1990) Molecular Cell Biology. New York: Scientific American.

Fawcett D (1981) An Atlas of Fine Structure: The Cell. New York: Saunders.

Holtzman E and Novikoff AB (1984) Cells and Organelles. New York: Saunders.

Judson HF (1996) The Eighth Day of Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Biology. Cold Spring Harbor: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Lewin B (1983) Genes. New York: Wiley.

Rensberger B (1996) Life Itself: Explaining the Realm of the Living Cell. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Smith CA and Wood EJ (1996) Cell Biology. London: Chapman and Hall.

Stryer L (1981) Biochemistry. New York: Freeman.

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Lane, Nancy J(Apr 2001) Cell Structure. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001268]