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Cell Structure and Function

Cell Structure

In 1655, the English scientist Robert Hooke coined the term cellulae for the small box-like structures he saw while examining a thin slice of cork under a microscope.

Basic Cell Structure

All cells have the following basic structure: A thin, flexible plasma membrane surrounds the entire cell. The interior is filled with a semi-fluid material called the cytoplasm. Also inside are specialized structures called organelles and the cells genetic material.

Generalized Eukaryotic Cell

Visualizing Cells

Prokaryotic Cells

Simplest organisms Cytoplasm is surrounded by plasma membrane and encased in a rigid cell wall composed of peptidoglycan. No distinct interior compartments Some use flagellum for locomotion, threadlike structures protruding from cell surface

Eukaryotic Cells

Characterized by compartmentalization by an endomembrane system, and the presence of membrane-bound organelles. central vacuole vesicles chromosomes cytoskeleton cell walls

Animal Cell Animal cell anatomy

Membrane Function
All cells are surrounded

by a plasma membrane. Cell membranes are composed of a lipid bilayer with globular proteins embedded in the bilayer. On the external surface, carbohydrate groups join with lipids to form glycolipids, and with proteins to form glycoproteins. These function as cell identity markers.

Fluid Mosaic Model

In 1972, S. Singer and G. Nicolson proposed the Fluid

Mosaic Model of membrane structure

Extracellular fluid




Transmembrane proteins
Peripheral protein Cytoplasm Filaments of cytoskeleton


Glycerol Two fatty acids

Phosphate group

Hydrophilic heads


Hydrophobic tails



Phospholipid Bilayer
Mainly 2 layers of phospholipids; the non-polar tails

point inward and the polar heads are on the surface. Contains cholesterol in animal cells. Is fluid, allowing proteins to move around within the bilayer.
Polar hydro-philic heads Nonpolar hydro-phobic tails

Polar hydro-philic heads


Steroid Cholesterol
Effects on membrane fluidity within

the animal cell membrane



Membrane Proteins
A membrane is a collage of different proteins

embedded in the fluid matrix of the lipid bilayer Peripheral proteins are appendages loosely bound to the surface of the membrane
Fibers of extracellular matrix (ECM)

Glycoprotein Carbohydrate


Microfilaments of cytoskeleton


Peripheral protein

Integral protein


Integral proteins
Penetrate the hydrophobic core of the

lipid bilayer Are often transmembrane proteins, completely spanning the membrane

C-terminus a Helix CYTOPLASMIC SIDE


Functions of Cell Membranes

Regulate the passage of substance

into and out of cells and between cell organelles and cytosol Detect chemical messengers arriving at the surface Link adjacent cells together by membrane junctions Anchor cells to the extracellular matrix

6 Major Functions Of Membrane Proteins

1. Transport. (left) A protein that spans the membrane may provide a hydrophilic channel across the membrane that is selective for a particular solute. (right) Other transport proteins shuttle a substance from one side to the other by changing shape. Some of these proteins hydrolyze ATP as an energy ssource to actively pump substances across the membrane 2. Enzymatic activity. A protein built into the membrane may be an enzyme with its active site exposed to substances in the adjacent solution. In some cases, several enzymes in a membrane are organized as a team that carries out sequential steps of a metabolic pathway.



Signal transduction. A membrane protein may have a binding site with a specific shape that fits the shape of a chemical messenger, such as a hormone. The external messenger (signal) may cause a conformational change in the protein (receptor) that relays the message to the inside of the cell.



6 Major Functions Of Membrane Proteins

4. Cell-cell recognition. Some glyco-proteins serve as identification tags that are specifically recognized by other cells.


Intercellular joining. Membrane proteins of adjacent cells may hook together in various kinds of junctions, such as gap junctions or tight junctions

6. Attachment to the cytoskeleton and extracellular matrix (ECM). Microfilaments or other elements of the cytoskeleton may be bonded to membrane proteins, a function that helps maintain cell shape and stabilizes the location of certain membrane proteins. Proteins that adhere to the ECM can coordinate extracellular and intracellular changes


Functions of Plasma Membrane Proteins

Outside Plasma membrane Inside Transporter Enzyme Cell surface receptor

Cell surface identity marker

Cell adhesion

Attachment to the cytoskeleton


Membrane Transport
The plasma membrane is the boundary that

separates the living cell from its nonliving surroundings In order to survive, A cell must exchange materials with its surroundings, a process controlled by the plasma membrane Materials must enter and leave the cell through the plasma membrane. Membrane structure results in selective permeability, it allows some substances to cross it more easily than others

Membrane Transport
The plasma membrane exhibits

selective permeability - It allows some substances to cross it more easily than others


Passive Transport
Passive transport is diffusion of a

substance across a membrane with no energy investment 4 types

Simple diffusion Dialysis Osmosis Facilitated diffusion


Solutions and Transport

Solution homogeneous mixture of

two or more components

Solvent dissolving medium
Solutes components in smaller quantities

within a solution

Intracellular fluid nucleoplasm and

cytosol Extracellular fluid

Interstitial fluid fluid on the exterior of the

cell within tissues Plasma fluid component of blood



The net movement of a substance from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration - down a concentration gradient Caused by the constant random motion of all atoms and molecules Movement of individual atoms & molecules is random, but each substance moves down its own concentration gradient.
Random movement leads to net movement down a concentration gradient

Lump of sugar

Water No net movement at equilibrium


Diffusion Across a Membrane

The membrane has pores large enough for the molecules to pass through. Random movement of the molecules will cause some to pass through the pores; this will happen more often on the side with more molecules. The dye diffuses from where it is more concentrated to where it is less concentrated This leads to a dynamic equilibrium: The solute molecules continue to cross the membrane, but at equal rates in both directions.

Net diffusion

Net diffusion



Diffusion Across a Membrane

Two different solutes are separated by a membrane that is permeable to both Each solute diffuses down its own concentration gradient. There will be a net diffusion of the purple molecules toward the left, even though the total solute concentration was initially greater on the left side

Net diffusion Net diffusion

Net diffusion


Net diffusion



The Permeability of the Lipid Bilayer

Permeability Factors Lipid solubility Size Charge Presence of channels and transporters Hydrophobic molecules are lipid soluble and can

pass through the membrane rapidly Polar molecules do not cross the membrane rapidly Transport proteins allow passage of hydrophilic substances across the membrane


Passive Transport Processes

3 special types of diffusion

that involve movement of materials across a semipermeable membrane Dialysis/selective diffusion of solutes Lipid-soluble materials Small molecules that can pass through membrane pores unassisted Facilitated diffusion substances require a protein carrier for passive transport Osmosis simple diffusion of water


Osmosis Diffusion of the solvent across a semipermeable membrane. In living systems the solvent is always water, so biologists generally define osmosis as the diffusion of water across a semipermeable membrane:

Lower concentration of solute (sugar) Higher concentration of sugar Same concentration of sugar

Selectively permeable membrane: sugar molecules cannot pass through pores, but water molecules can More free water molecules (higher concentration) Osmosis

Water molecules cluster around sugar molecules

Fewer free water molecules (lower concentration)

Water moves from an area of higher free water concentration to an area of lower free water concentration


Osmotic Pressure
Osmotic pressure of a solution is the

pressure needed to keep it in equilibrium with pure H20. The higher the concentration of solutes in a solution, the higher its osmotic pressure. Tonicity is the ability of a solution to cause a cell to gain or lose water based on the concentration of solutes

If 2 solutions have equal [solutes], they are called

isotonic If one has a higher [solute], and lower [solvent], is hypertonic The one with a lower [solute], and higher [solvent], is hypotonic
Hypotonic solution Isotonic solution Hypertonic solution









Water Balance In Cells With Walls

(b) Plant cell. Plant cells are turgid (firm) and generally healthiest in a hypotonic environment, where the uptake of water is eventually balanced by the elastic wall pushing back on the cell.





Turgid (normal)




My definition of Osmosis
Osmosis is the diffusion of water

across a semi-permeable membrane from a hypotonic solution to a hypertonic solution


Facilitated Diffusion

Diffusion of solutes through a semipermeable membrane with the help of special transport proteins i.e. large polar molecules and ions that cannot pass through phospholipid bilayer. Two types of transport proteins can help ions and large polar molecules diffuse through cell membranes:
Channel proteins provide a narrow channel for the substance to pass through. Carrier proteins physically bind to the substance on one side of membrane and release it on the other.


Channel protein


Carrier protein



Facilitated Diffusion
Specific each channel or carrier

transports certain ions or molecules only Passive direction of net movement is always down the concentration gradient Saturates once all transport proteins are in use, rate of diffusion cannot be increased further

Active Transport
Uses energy (from ATP) to move a

substance against its natural tendency e.g. up a concentration gradient. Requires the use of carrier proteins (transport proteins that physically bind to the substance being transported). 2 types:
Membrane pump (protein-mediated active



Membrane Pump
A carrier protein uses energy from

ATP to move a substance across a membrane, up its concentration gradient:


The Sodium-potassium Pump

One type of active transport system

[Na+] high [K+] low Na+

1. Cytoplasmic Na+ binds to the sodium-potassium pump.

Na+ Na+ Na+ P ADP ATP


2. Na+ binding stimulates phosphorylation by ATP.

[Na+] low Na+ [K+] high CYTOPLASM

6. K+ is released and Na+ sites are receptive again; the cycle repeats.
K+ K+

Na+ Na+


3. Phosphorylation causes the protein to change its conformation, expelling Na+ to the outside.

5. Loss of the phosphate restores the proteins original conformation.

K+ K+ K+ K+

4. Extracellular K+ binds to the protein, triggering release of the Phosphate group.

P Pi


Coupled transport
2 stages: Carrier protein uses ATP to move a substance across the membrane against its concentration gradient. Storing energy. Coupled transport protein allows the substance to move down its concentration gradient using the stored energy to move a second substance up its concentration gradient:


Review: Passive And Active Transport Compared

Passive transport. Substances diffuse spontaneously down their concentration gradients, crossing a membrane with no expenditure of energy by the cell. The rate of diffusion can be greatly increased by transport proteins in the membrane.

Active transport. Some transport proteins act as pumps, moving substances across a membrane against their concentration gradients. Energy for this work is usually supplied by ATP.


Diffusion. Hydrophobic molecules and (at a slow rate) very small uncharged polar molecules can diffuse through the lipid bilayer.

Facilitated diffusion. Many hydrophilic substances diffuse through membranes with the assistance of transport proteins, either channel or carrier proteins.


Bulk Transport
Allows small particles, or groups of

molecules to enter or leave a cell without actually passing through the membrane. 2 mechanisms of bulk transport: endocytosis and exocytosis.


The plasma membrane envelops

small particles or fluid, then seals on itself to form a vesicle or vacuole which enters the cell:
Phagocytosis Pinocytosis Receptor-Mediated Endocytosis -


Three Types Of Endocytosis

In phagocytosis, a cell engulfs a particle by Wrapping pseudopodia around it and packaging it within a membraneenclosed sac large enough to be classified as a vacuole. The particle is digested after the vacuole fuses with a lysosome containing hydrolytic enzymes.

CYTOPLASM Pseudopodium

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Pseudopodium of amoeba Food or other particle Food vacuole

Bacterium Food vacuole An amoeba engulfing a bacterium via phagocytosis (TEM).

In pinocytosis, the cell gulps droplets of extracellular fluid into tiny vesicles. It is not the fluid itself that is needed by the cell, but the molecules dissolved in the droplet. Because any and all included solutes are taken into the cell, pinocytosis is nonspecific in the substances it transports. Plasma membrane

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Pinocytosis vesicles forming (arrows) in a cell lining a small blood vessel (TEM).



Process of Phagocytosis


Receptor-mediated Endocytosis
Coat protein Receptor
Receptor-mediated endocytosis enables the cell to acquire bulk quantities of specific substances, even though those substances may not be very concentrated in the extracellular fluid. Embedded in the membrane are proteins with specific receptor sites exposed to the extracellular fluid. The receptor proteins are usually already clustered in regions of the membrane called coated pits, which are lined on their cytoplasmic side by a fuzzy layer of coat proteins. Extracellular substances (ligands) bind to these receptors. When binding occurs, the coated pit forms a vesicle containing the ligand molecules. Notice that there are relatively more bound molecules (purple) inside the vesicle, other molecules (green) are also present. After this ingested material is liberated from the vesicle, the receptors are recycled to the plasma membrane by the same vesicle.

Coated vesicle

Coated pit Ligand Coat protein A coated pit and a coated vesicle formed during receptormediated endocytosis (TEMs).

Plasma membrane

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The reverse of endocytosis During this process, the membrane of a vesicle

fuses with the plasma membrane and its contents are released outside the cell:


Cell Junctions

Long-lasting or permanent connections between adjacent cells, 3 types of cell junctions:

Tight junctions prevent fluid from moving across a layer of cells Tight junction At tight junctions, the membranes of neighboring cells are very tightly pressed against each other, bound together by specific proteins (purple). Forming continuous seals around the cells, tight junctions prevent leakage of extracellular fluid across A layer of epithelial cells.

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DESMOSOMES Tight junctions Intermediate filaments Desmosome Gap junctions

1 m Desmosomes (also called anchoring junctions) function like rivets, fastening cells Together into strong sheets. Intermediate Filaments made of sturdy keratin proteins Anchor desmosomes in the cytoplasm.

Gap junctions (also called communicating junctions) provide cytoplasmic channels from one cell to an adjacent cell. Gap junctions consist of special membrane proteins that surround a pore through which ions, sugars, amino acids, and other small molecules may pass. Gap junctions are necessary for communication between cells in many types of tissues, including heart muscle and animal embryos.

Space between Plasma membranes cells of adjacent cells

Extracellular matrix Gap junction

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The Nucleus And The Nuclear Envelope

Repository for genetic material called chromatin - DNA and proteins Nucleolus: holds chromatin and ribosomal subunits - region of intensive ribosomal RNA synthesis Nuclear envelope: Surface of nucleus bound by two phospholipid bilayer membranes - Double membrane with pores Nucleoplasm: semifluid medium inside the nucleus

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Nucleolus Chromatin Nuclear envelope: Inner membrane Outer membrane


Nuclear pore Pore complex Rough ER Surface of nuclear envelope.

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Ribosome Close-up of nuclear envelope Nuclear lamina (TEM).

1 m

Pore complexes (TEM).



DNA of eukaryotes is divided into linear chromosomes. Exist as strands of chromatin, except during cell division Histones associated packaging proteins



Ribosomes are RNA-protein complexes composed of two subunits that join and attach to messenger RNA. Site of protein synthesis Assembled in nucleoli
Ribosomes ER Cytosol Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) Free ribosomes

Bound ribosomes Large subunit Small subunit

Diagram of a ribosome

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TEM showing ER and ribosomes


Endomembrane System

Compartmentalizes cell, channeling passage of molecules through cells interior. Endoplasmic reticulum Rough ER - studded with ribosomes Smooth ER - few ribosomes


Rough ER

Rough ER is especially abundant in cells that secrete proteins. As a polypeptide is synthesized on a ribosome attached to rough ER, it is threaded into the cisternal space through a pore formed by a protein complex in the ER membrane. As it enters the cisternal space, the new protein folds into its native conformation. Most secretory polypeptides are glycoproteins, proteins to which a carbohydrate is attached. Secretory proteins are packaged in transport vesicles that carry them to their next stage. Rough ER is also a membrane factory. Membrane-bound proteins are synthesized directly into the membrane. Enzymes in the rough ER also synthesize phospholipids from precursors in the cytosol. As the ER membrane expands, membrane can be transferred as transport vesicles to other components of the endomembrane system.


Smooth ER

The smooth ER is rich in enzymes and plays a role in a variety of metabolic processes. Enzymes of smooth ER synthesize lipids, including oils, phospholipids, and steroids. These include the sex hormones of vertebrates and adrenal steroids. In the smooth ER of the liver, enzymes help detoxify poisons and drugs such as alcohol and barbiturates. Smooth ER stores calcium ions. Muscle cells have a specialized smooth ER that pumps calcium ions from the cytosol and stores them in its cisternal space. When a nerve impulse stimulates a muscle cell, calcium ions rush from the ER into the cytosol, triggering contraction.


The Golgi apparatus

The Golgi apparatus is the shipping and receiving center for cell products. Many transport vesicles from the ER travel to the Golgi apparatus for modification of their contents. The Golgi is a center of manufacturing, warehousing, sorting, and shipping. The Golgi apparatus consists of flattened membranous sacs cisternaelooking like a stack of pita bread. The Golgi sorts and packages materials into transport vesicles.


Functions Of The Golgi Apparatus

Golgi apparatus
cis face (receiving side of Golgi apparatus)

1 Vesicles move 2 Vesicles coalesce to 6 Vesicles also form new cis Golgi cisternae from ER to Golgi transport certain Cisternae proteins back to ER 3 Cisternal maturation: Golgi cisternae move in a cisto-trans direction 4 Vesicles form and leave Golgi, carrying specific proteins to other locations or to the plasma membrane for secretion

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5 Vesicles transport specific proteins backward to newer Golgi cisternae

trans face (shipping side of Golgi apparatus)

TEM of Golgi apparatus


Membrane Bound Organelles

Nucleus 1 m

Lysosomes vesicle containing digestive enzymes that break down food/foreign particles Vacuoles food storage and water regulation Peroxisomes - contain enzymes that catalyze the removal of electrons and associated hydrogen atoms


Lysosome contains active hydrolytic enzymes

Food vacuole fuses with lysosome Digestive enzymes

Hydrolytic enzymes digest food particles

Lysosome Plasma membrane Digestion Food vacuole

(a) Phagocytosis: lysosome digesting food



Sites of cellular respiration, ATP synthesis Bound by a double membrane surrounding fluid-filled matrix. The inner membranes of mitochondria are cristae The matrix contains enzymes that break down carbohydrates and the cristae house protein complexes that produce ATP



The eukaryotic cytoskeleton is a network of filaments and tubules that extends from the nucleus to the plasma membrane that support cell shape and anchor organelles. Protein fibers Actin filaments cell movement Intermediate filaments Microtubules centrioles


Centrioles are short cylinders with a 9 + 0 pattern of microtubule triplets. Centrioles may be involved in microtubule formation and disassembly during cell division and in the organization of cilia and flagella.

Cilia and Flagella

Contain specialized arrangements of microtubules Are locomotor appendages of some cells Cilia and flagella share a common ultrastructure
0.1 m Outer microtubule doublet Dynein arms Central microtubule Outer doublets cross-linking proteins inside Radial spoke Plasma membrane

Microtubules Plasma membrane Basal body


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0.1 m


Cross section of basal body


Cilia and Flagella

Cilia (small and numerous) and flagella (large and single) have a 9 + 2 pattern of microtubules and are involved in cell movement. Cilia and flagella move when the microtubule doublets slide past one another. Each cilium and flagellum has a basal body at its base.


Cilia and Flagella

(a) Motion of flagella. A flagellum usually undulates, its snakelike motion driving a cell in the same direction as the axis of the flagellum. Propulsion of a human sperm cell is an example of flagellatelocomotion (LM). Direction of swimming

1 m

(b) Motion of cilia. Cilia have a backand-forth motion that moves the cell in a direction perpendicular to the axis of the cilium. A dense nap of cilia, beating at a rate of about 40 to 60 strokes a second, covers this Colpidium, a freshwater protozoan (SEM).

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