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Biology LibreTexts

3.E: Cell Structure and Function (Exercises)

3.1: How Cells Are Studied

In multicellular organisms, several cells of one particular kind interconnect with each other and perform shared functions to form tissues (for example, muscle tissue, connective tissue, and nervous tissue), several tissues combine to form an organ (for example, stomach, heart, or brain), and several organs make up an organ system (such as the digestive system, circulatory system, or nervous system). Several systems functioning together form an organism (such as an elephant, for example).


3.2: Comparing Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells

Cells fall into one of two broad categories: prokaryotic and eukaryotic. The predominantly single-celled organisms of the domains Bacteria and Archaea are classified as prokaryotes (pro- = before; -karyon- = nucleus). Animal cells, plant cells, fungi, and protists are eukaryotes (eu- = true).


3.3: Eukaryotic Cells

At this point, it should be clear that eukaryotic cells have a more complex structure than do prokaryotic cells. Organelles allow for various functions to occur in the cell at the same time. Before discussing the functions of organelles within a eukaryotic cell, let us first examine two important components of the cell: the plasma membrane and the cytoplasm.


3.4: The Cell Membrane

The plasma membrane is referred to as the fluid mosaic model and is composed of a bilayer of phospholipids, with their hydrophobic, fatty acid tails in contact with each other. The landscape of the membrane is studded with proteins, some of which span the membrane. Some of these proteins serve to transport materials into or out of the cell. Carbohydrates are attached to some of the proteins and lipids on the outward-facing surface of the membrane. These function to identify other cells.


3.5: Passive Transport

The most direct forms of membrane transport are passive. Passive transport is a naturally occurring phenomenon and does not require the cell to expend energy to accomplish the movement. In passive transport, substances move from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration in a process called diffusion. A physical space in which there is a different concentration of a single substance is said to have a concentration gradient.


3.6: Active Transport

Active transport mechanisms require the use of the cell’s energy, usually in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). If a substance must move into the cell against its concentration gradient, that is, if the concentration of the substance inside the cell must be greater than its concentration in the extracellular fluid, the cell must use energy to move the substance. Some active transport mechanisms move small-molecular weight material, such as ions, through the membrane.