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Biology > Cell the Unit of Life > Eukaryotic Cell
Cell the Unit of Life

Eukaryotic Cell

Eukaryotic cells are defined as cells containing organized nucleus and organelles which are enveloped by membrane-bound organelles. Examples of eukaryotic cells are plants, animals, protists, fungi. Their genetic material is organized in chromosomes. Golgi apparatus, Mitochondria, Ribosomes, Nucleus are parts of Eukaryotic Cells. Let’s learn about the parts of eukaryotic cells in detail.

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Parts of Eukaryotic Cells

Eukaryotic cells

Cytoplasmic Membrane

Description: It is also called plasma membrane or cell membrane. The plasma membrane is a semi-permeable membrane that separates the inside of a cell from the outside.

Structure and Composition: In eukaryotic cells, the plasma membrane consists of proteins, carbohydrates and two layers of phospholipids (i.e. lipid with a phosphate group). These phospholipids are arranged as follows:

  • The polar, hydrophilic (water-loving) heads face the outside and inside of the cell. These heads interact with the aqueous environment outside and within a cell.
  • The non-polar, hydrophobic (water-repelling) tails are sandwiched between the heads and are protected from the aqueous environments.

Scientists Singer and Nicolson described the structure of the phospholipid bilayer as the ‘Fluid Mosaic Model’. The reason is that the bi-layer looks like a mosaic and has a semi-fluid nature that allows lateral movement of proteins within the bilayer.

Fluid mosaic model

Image: Fluid mosaic model. Orange circles – Hydrophilic heads; Lines below – Hydrophobic tails.


  • The plasma membrane is selectively permeable i.e. it allows only selected substances to pass through.
  • It protects the cells from shock and injuries.
  • The fluid nature of the membrane allows the interaction of molecules within the membrane. It is also important for secretion, cell growth, and division etc.
  • It allows transport of molecules across the membrane. This transport can be of two types:
    • Active transport – This transport occurs against the concentration gradient and therefore, requires energy. It also needs carrier proteins and is a highly selective process.
    • Passive transport – This transport occurs along the concentration gradient and therefore, does not require energy. Thus, it does not need carrier proteins and is not selective.

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Cell Wall

Description: The cell wall is a non-living, rigid structure outside the plasma membrane in plant cells and fungi. It is absent in Eukaryotic cells of animals

Structure and composition: It is made of different components in different Eukaryotes:

  • Cellulose, hemicellulose, proteins, and pectin – in plants.
  • Cellulose, galactans, mannans and calcium carbonate – in fungi.

The cell wall is divided into the following three layers:

  • Middle lamella – It is the outermost layer and is made of calcium pectates. It holds adjoining cells together.
  • Primary wall – It is the middle layer and is made of cellulose and hemicellulose. It is present in young, growing cells and is capable of growth.
  • Secondary wall – It is the innermost layer and similar in composition to the primary wall.


  • Provides shape to the cell.
  • Helps in cell-cell interaction.
  • Protects the cell from injury, undesirable molecules and pathogens.

Endoplasmic reticulum (ER)

Description: It is a network of small, tubular structures. It divides the space inside of Eukaryotic cells into two parts – luminal (inside ER) and extra-luminal (cytoplasm).

Structure: ER can be of two types –

Smooth Endoplasmic Reticulum (SER) Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum (RER)
Smooth due to lack of ribosomes Rough due to the presence of ribosomes
The main site of lipid synthesis Site of protein synthesis.


  • SER is involved in lipid synthesis and RER is involved in protein synthesis.
  • RER helps in folding proteins and transports it to the Golgi apparatus in vesicles.

Golgi Apparatus

Description: It is named after the scientist who discovered it, Camillo Golgi. Golgi is made of many flat, disc-shaped structures called cisternae. It is present in all eukaryotic cells except human red blood cells and sieve cells of plants.

Structure: The cisternae are arranged in parallel and concentrically near the nucleus as follows:

  • Cis face (forming face) – It faces the plasma membrane and receives secreted material in vesicles.
  • Trans face (maturing face) – It faces the nucleus and releases the received material into the cell.


  • An important site for packaging material within the cell.
  • Proteins are modified in the Golgi.
  • An important site for the formation of glycolipids (i.e. lipids with carbohydrate) and glycoproteins (i.e. proteins with carbohydrates).


Description: These structures are not bound by a membrane. Ribosomes are also called ‘Protein factories’ since they are the main site of protein synthesis.

Structure: They are made of ribonucleic acids and proteins. Eukaryotic ribosomes are of the 80S type, with 60S (large subunit) and 40S (small subunit).

Functions: A Major site for synthesis of proteins and polypeptides (chain of amino acids).



(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Description: They are membrane-bound organelles, also known as ‘powerhouses of the cell’.

Structure: It has two membranes – outer and inner. The outer membrane forms a continuous boundary around the mitochondria. The inner membrane is semi-permeable and divided into folds called ‘cristae’. The membranes divide the lumen of the mitochondria into an inner and outer compartment. The inner compartment is called matrix and outer compartment forms the intermembrane space.


  • They produce energy (ATP) and therefore are called the ‘powerhouse of the cell’.
  • Helps in regulating cell metabolism.
  • Mitochondria possess their own DNA, RNA and components required for protein synthesis.


Description: They are membrane-bound vesicles formed in the Golgi apparatus. Lysosomes are also called ‘suicidal bags’ since they are rich in hydrolytic enzymes such as lipases, proteases, carbohydrates etc. These enzymes are optimally active at acidic pH (less than 7).

Function: The main function of lysosomes is to digest lipids, proteins, carbohydrates and nucleic acids.


Description: Nucleus is the main organelle of a cell. It is a double membrane structure with all the genetic information. Therefore, it is also called the ‘brain’ of a cell. The nucleus is found in all eukaryotic cells except human RBCs and sieve cells of plants.

Structure: A nucleus has the following parts:

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

  • Nuclear envelope – It is a double membrane structure that surrounds the nucleus. The outer membrane is continuous with the endoplasmic reticulum. The inner membrane has small pores called ‘nuclear pores’.
  • Nucleoplasm – It is the fluid material in the nucleus that contains the nucleolus and chromatin.
  • Nucleolus – Nucleoli are not membrane-bound and are active sites for ribosomal RNA synthesis.
  • Chromatin – It consists of DNA and proteins called ‘histones’. The DNA is organised into chromosomes. Chromosomes have certain constriction sites called ‘centromeres’. Based on the position of the centromere, they can be divided as follows:
    • Metacentric – With centromere in the centre and having equal chromosome arms.
    • Sub-metacentric – Centromere is slightly off-centre creating one short and one long arm.
    • Acrocentric – Centromere is extremely off-centre with one very long and one very short chromosome arm.
    • Telocentric – Centromere is placed at one end of the chromosome. Humans do not possess telocentric chromosomes.


  • It stores genetic information (in the form of DNA) necessary for development and reproduction.
  • It contains all information necessary for protein synthesis and cellular functions.


Description: It is the filamentous network present in the cytoplasm of a cell.

Function: It provides mechanical support, maintains the shape of the cell and helps in motility.

Cilia and Flagella

They are both responsible for the movement of a cell.

Cilia Flagella
Short, hair-like structures Long structures
There are many cilia per cell There are fewer flagella per cell
Cover the entire surface of a cell Are present at one end of a cell
Rowing movement Up and down movement


Description: They are double membrane organelles found in plant cells. They contain pigments and are of three types:

  • Chloroplasts – They contain chlorophyll and are involved in photosynthesis, where light energy is converted to chemical energy. Chloroplasts contain compartments called stroma and grana. Grana contains structures called thylakoids that contain chlorophyll. Stroma contains enzymes needed for carbohydrate and protein synthesis.
  • Chromoplasts – These give plants yellow, red or orange colours because they contain pigments like carotene.
  • Leucoplasts – These are colourless plastids that store either carbohydrates (Amyloplasts), oils and fats (Elaioplasts) or proteins (Aleuroplasts).

Solved Question for You

Q: Cell organelle of Eukaryotic Cells involved in forming complex sugar from simple sugars are which of the following?

  1. Endoplasmic reticulum
  2. Ribosomes
  3. Plastids
  4. Golgi apparatus

Ans: The correct answer is option “d”. The Golgi apparatus is found in most cells. It gathers simple molecules and combines them to make molecules that are more complex. It then takes those big molecules and packages them into vesicles and either store them for later use or sends them out of the cell.

FAQ’s for You

Q1. Describe the characteristics of eukaryotic cells.

Answers: Eukaryotic cells have a true nucleus and membrane-bound organelles like mitochondria, Golgi complex, etc. The cell organelles and nucleus is embedded in the cytoplasm. The cell is covered with the plasma membrane. They have rod-shaped chromosomes, inside the nucleus which is covered by a nuclear membrane. They contain DNA as the genetic material and proteins in the nucleoplasm. The nuclear membrane is continuous with the endoplasmic reticulum. Mitochondria are called the powerhouse of the cell as it synthesizes energy-rich molecule ATP. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) carries out modification of proteins and synthesis of lipids. There is two type of ER, namely rough ER and smooth ER. Rough ER has ribosomes on its membrane. Golgi apparatus carries out sorting, tagging, packaging, and distribution of lipids and proteins. Peroxisomes carry out oxidation reactions that break down fatty acids and amino acids. Vesicles and vacuoles are storage organelles. Apart from these organelles, the animal cell contains lysosomes and centrosomes. Plant cells have a cell wall and plastids like chloroplast which are absent in animal cells.

Q2. Eukaryotic cells have membrane bound organelles.
1. True
2. False

Answer: Organelles are the specialised and organised structures in a living cell. These may be bound by a single or double membrane (Exception is ribosomes which are non-membranous cell organelles present in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes). Membrane-bound cell organelles include nucleus, vacuole, endoplasmic reticulum, chloroplasts, mitochondria, lysosomes, Golgi apparatus and are present only in eukaryotes.
So, the correct answer is ‘True’.

Q3. Unlike eukaryotic cells, prokaryotic cells
A. Lack in plasma membrane
B. Do not have a nucleus
C. Have RNA not DNA
D. All of above

Answers: Eukaryotic cells have membrane-bound organelles and have a true nucleus whereas prokaryotic cells do not have a true nucleus. The prokaryotic cells have a nucleoid region where the chromosome lies.
Hence, the correct answer is ‘Do not have a nucleus’.

Q4. In eukaryotic cells, the chromosomes are located in?

Answers: In prokaryotes, the circular chromosomes are located in nucleoid which is present in the cytoplasm. In eukaryotes, the chromosome is stored inside the nucleus. Each eukaryotic chromosome is composed of DNA coiled and condensed around nuclear proteins called histones.
So the correct answer is the nucleus.



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