Every cell is different and has a variety of parts, but there are some standard cell terminology and constructions that you should be familiar with. You might know that the “mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell,” but the other components may have slipped your mind. Here’s a crash course on the parts of a cell.
All living things are built of cells. Cells have many shapes and sizes, and our bodies contain about 200 kinds of cells.
Cells are built of many parts called “organelles,” components that accomplish specific things related to the flourishing of the cell. Many cells share the same types of organelles, but some special organelles exist in certain cells.
3 Main Parts of a Cell
Nucleus, cell membrane, and cytoplasm are considered the three main parts of the cell. There are other components other than these, which we will discuss later on.
Famously, the nucleus is the brain or control center of the cell. The largest organelle (part), it contains the DNA of the cell. The DNA is the information that codes the cells life, functions, and reproduction. It is a dark and round organelle, protected by a double membrane with permeable pores allowing the transfer of chemicals.
The nucleus is an organelle that has another organelle inside it. Inside the nucleus is the nucleolus, an organelle that creates ribosomes.
Ribosomes are organelles that are synthesized inside the nucleolus. Ribosomes play a key role in helping the cell process proteins. Ribosomes are made up of a large and small “ribosome subunit.” The subunits handle protein synthesis, docking with RNA.
2. Cell Membrane
The plasma membrane encloses the cell in a bilipid membrane (membrane with two lipid layers). The lipids are built from fatty acids of two different kinds–a hydrophilic head and hydrophobic tail. The plasma membrane allows the cell to retain and repel certain liquids.
Within the plasma membrane is a channel made up of proteins. The channel, or pore, controls the movement of nutritious molecules within the cell.
Cytoplasm is the fluid inside the cell membrane that consists of approximately 75% water. Inside it, are little organelles, or “little organs”, which we will discuss in the next section.
Other Sections of the Cell
4. Endoplasmic Reticulum
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a membrane network that winds its way through the cytoplasm of the cell. The canals of the endoplasmic reticulum are filled with fluid. There are two types of endoplasmic reticulum: the rough endoplasmic reticulum is where ribosomes attach, and the smooth endoplasmic reticulum has no ribosomes attached to itself.
Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum
The rough endoplasmic reticulum handles most of the cell’s protein synthesis for energy. Ribosomes are synthesized in the nucleolus and most of them find their way to the rough endoplasmic reticulum to help with protein synthesis.
Smooth Endoplasmic Reticulum
The smooth endoplasmic reticulum synthesizes lipids (fats) and helps detox the cell of harmful substances. It contains no ribosomes and appears smooth.
Some cells have organelles called peroxisomes which function to break down toxic chemicals and refresh the cell.
This organelle is exclusive to plant cells, and it handles photosynthesis. Light energy is converted to chemical energy in the chloroplast. Tiny pigments in the chloroplast trap energy from light to convert it into starchy structures that are used for food. This part of the plant cell is extremely important because it provides food for the plant.
Vesicles are like little shipping trucks, transporting the chemicals produced by the cell. In a process called exocytosis, the vesicles transfer chemicals outside the cell as well (waste, toxins).
Found in plant cells, the vacuole looks like a large hole but is actually a huge storage unit for the cells products. Vesicles can deposit and pick up water, ions, sugars, and pigments into and from the vacuole organelle.
An important part of the animal cells, centrioles protect dividing cells from mutation by organizing their chromosomes.
10. Cell Wall
Also found in plant cells, the cell wall helps protect and support the plant. Cellulose prevents materials from drifting into the plant.
The cytoskeleton is a cellular structure that runs throughout the entire cell, lending it shape and support.
12. Golgi Complex
Named after the Italian physician, Camillo Golgi, who described the organelle, the Golgi complex ships proteins which are synthesized in the endoplasmic reticulum.
The Golgi complex postmarks proteins to make sure the cell gets the proteins where it needs it. It also creates lysosomes to break down molecules into bite-sized pieces for the cell.
Organelles which help the cell break the bonds of larger molecules. Lysosomes are the heroes of cells! They dive into food products and old organelles to break them down with powerful digestive enzymes.
The famous powerhouse of the cell. This organelle transforms the cell’s energy into ATP for power. Every cell type has different amounts of mitochondria. In a process called respiration, the mitochondria fold chemicals into ATP for energy. It is a vital part of the animal cell because it provides a source of energy.
Muscle cells have high mitochondria counts to provide energy to the muscles.
Cells make up all living organisms as the basic building blocks of life. Cells are made up of organelles (sometimes organelles within organelles!) which provide the cell with different functions. I hope that this article on parts of the cell was helpful. If you are interested, visit the health facts page!