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BIO 1020 Assignment Eukaryotic Cell Organelles

BIO 1020 Assignment Eukaryotic Cell Organelles

How do cells accomplish all their functions in such a tiny, crowded package? Eukaryotic cells — those that make up cattails and apple trees, mushrooms and dust mites, halibut and readers of Scitable — have evolved ways to partition off different functions to various locations in the cell. In fact, specialized compartments called organelles exist within eukaryotic cells for this purpose. Different organelles play different roles in the cell — for instance, mitochondria generate energy from food molecules; lysosomes break down and recycle organelles and macromolecules; and the endoplasmic reticulum helps build membranes and transport proteins throughout the cell. But what characteristics do all organelles have in common? And why was the development of three particular organelles — the nucleus, the mitochondrion, and the chloroplast — so essential to the evolution of present-day eukaryotes (Figure 1, Figure 2)?


BIO 1020 Assignment Eukaryotic Cell Organelles

In addition to the nucleus, eukaryotic cells may contain several other types of organelles, which may include mitochondria, chloroplasts, the endoplasmic reticulum, the Golgi apparatus, and lysosomes. Each of these organelles performs a specific function critical to the cell’s survival. Moreover, nearly all eukaryotic organelles are separated from the rest of the cellular space by a membrane, in much the same way that interior walls separate the rooms in a house. The membranes that surround eukaryotic organelles are based on lipid bilayers that are similar (but not identical) to the cell’s outer membrane. Together, the total area of a cell’s internal membranes far exceeds that of its plasma membrane.

Like the plasma membrane, organelle membranes function to keep the inside “in” and the outside “out.” This partitioning permits different kinds of biochemical reactions to take place in different organelles. Although each organelle performs a specific function in the cell, all of the cell’s organelles work together in an integrated fashion to meet the overall needs of the cell. For example, biochemical reactions in a cell’s mitochondria transfer energy from fatty acids and pyruvate molecules into an energy-rich molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Subsequently, the rest of the cell’s organelles use this ATP as the source of the energy they need to operate.

Because most organelles are surrounded by membranes, they are easy to visualize — with magnification. For instance, researchers can use high resolution electron microscopy to take a snapshot through a thin cross-section or slice of a cell. In this way, they can see the structural detail and key characteristics of different organelles — such as the long, thin compartments of the endoplasmic reticulum or the compacted chromatin within the nucleus. An electron micrograph therefore provides an excellent blueprint of a cell’s inner structures. Other less powerful microscopy techniques coupled with organelle-specific stains have helped researchers see organelle structure more clearly, as well as the distribution of various organelles within cells. However, unlike the rooms in a house, a cell’s organelles are not static. Rather, these structures are in constant motion, sometimes moving to a particular place within the cell, sometimes merging with other organelles, and sometimes growing larger or smaller. These dynamic changes in cellular structures can be observed with video microscopic techniques, which provide lower-resolution movies of whole organelles as these structures move within cells.

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