The cell (from Latin cella, meaning “small room”) is the basic structural, functional, and biological unit of all known organisms. Cells are the smallest units of life, and hence are often referred to as the “building blocks of life”. The study of cells is called cell biology, cellular biology, or cytology.
Cells consist of cytoplasm enclosed within a membrane, which contains many biomolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids.
Most plant and animal cells are only visible under a light microscope, with dimensions between 1 and 100 micrometres.
Electron microscopy gives a much higher resolution showing greatly detailed cell structure. Organisms can be classified as unicellular (consisting of a single cell such as bacteria) or multicellular (including plants and animals).
Most unicellular organisms are classed as microorganisms.
The number of cells in plants and animals varies from species to species; it has been estimated that humans contain somewhere around 40 trillion (4×1013) cells.
The human brain accounts for around 80 billion of these cells.
Cells were discovered by Robert Hooke in 1665, who named them for their resemblance to cells inhabited by Christian monks in a monastery.
Cell theory,first developed in 1839 by Matthias Jakob Schleiden and Theodor Schwann, states that all organisms are composed of one or more cells, that cells are the fundamental unit of structure and function in all living organisms, and that all cells come from pre-existing cells.
Cells emerged on Earth at least 3.5 billion years ago.
The cell membrane, or plasma membrane, is a biological membrane that surrounds the cytoplasm of a cell. In animals, the plasma membrane is the outer boundary of the cell, while in plants and prokaryotes it is usually covered by a cell wall. This membrane serves to separate and protect a cell from its surrounding environment and is made mostly from a double layer of phospholipids, which are amphiphilic (partly hydrophobic and partly hydrophilic). Hence, the layer is called a phospholipid bilayer, or sometimes a fluid mosaic membrane. Embedded within this membrane is a macromolecular structure called the porosome the universal secretory portal in cells and a variety of protein molecules that act as channels and pumps that move different molecules into and out of the cell.
The membrane is semi-permeable, and selectively permeable, in that it can either let a substance (molecule or ion) pass through freely, pass through to a limited extent or not pass through at all. Cell surface membranes also contain receptor proteins that allow cells to detect external signaling molecules such as hormones.
Organelles are parts of the cell which are adapted and/or specialized for carrying out one or more vital functions, analogous to the organs of the human body (such as the heart, lung, and kidney, with each organ performing a different function).
Both eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells have organelles, but prokaryotic organelles are generally simpler and are not membrane-bound.
There are several types of organelles in a cell. Some (such as the nucleus and golgi apparatus) are typically solitary, while others (such as mitochondria, chloroplasts, peroxisomes and lysosomes) can be numerous (hundreds to thousands). The cytosol is the gelatinous fluid that fills the cell and surrounds the organelles.
Mitochondria and chloroplasts: generate energy for the cell. Mitochondria are self-replicating organelles that occur in various numbers, shapes, and sizes in the cytoplasm of all eukaryotic cells.
Respiration occurs in the cell mitochondria, which generate the cell’s energy by oxidative phosphorylation, using oxygen to release energy stored in cellular nutrients (typically pertaining to glucose) to generate ATP. Mitochondria multiply by binary fission, like prokaryotes. Chloroplasts can only be found in plants and algae, and they capture the sun’s energy to make carbohydrates through photosynthesis.
Endoplasmic reticulum: The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a transport network for molecules targeted for certain modifications and specific destinations, as compared to molecules that float freely in the cytoplasm. The ER has two forms: the rough ER, which has ribosomes on its surface that secrete proteins into the ER, and the smooth ER, which lacks ribosomes.
The smooth ER plays a role in calcium sequestration and release.
Golgi apparatus: The primary function of the Golgi apparatus is to process and package the macromolecules such as proteins and lipids that afilled space and are surrounded by a membrane.