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The Cell: Lifes Basic Building Block Cytology, from the Greek word cyto, which means cell,

is the study of cells. Every living thing has cells, but not all living things have the same kinds of cells. Eukaryotes like humans (and all other organisms besides bacteria and viruses) have eukaryotic cells, each of which has a defined nucleus that controls and directs the cells activities, and cytosol, fluid material found in the gel-like cytoplasm that fills most of the cell. Plant cells have fibrous cell walls; animal cells do not, making do instead with a semipermeable cell membrane, which sometimes is called a plasma membrane or the plasmalemma. Because human cells dont have cell walls, they look like gel-filled sacs with nuclei and tiny parts called organelles nestled inside when viewed through an electron microscope. Parts of a Cell The Cell Membrane - the cell membrane keeps the cells cytoplasm in place and lets only select materials enter and depart the cell as needed. This semipermeability, or selective permeability, is a result of a double layer (bilayer) of phospholipid molecules interspersed with protein molecules. The outer surface of each layer is made up of tightly packed hydrophilic (or water-loving) polar heads. Inside, between the two layers, you find hydrophobic (or water-fearing) nonpolar tails consisting of fatty acid chains. Cholesterol molecules between the phosphate layers give the otherwise elastic membrane stability and make it less permeable to water-soluble substances. Both cytoplasm and the matrix, the material in which cells lie, are primarily water. The polar heads electrostatically attract polarized water molecules while the nonpolar tails lie between the layers, shielded from water and creating a dry middle layer. The membranes interior is made up of oily fatty acid molecules that are electrostatically symmetric, or nonpolarized. Lipid-soluble molecules can pass through this layer, but water-soluble molecules such as amino acids, sugars, and proteins cannot. Because phospholipids have both polar and nonpolar regions, theyre also called amphipathic molecules. The cell membrane is designed to hold the cell together and to isolate it as a distinct functional unit of protoplasm. Although it can spontaneously repair minor tears, severe damage to the membrane will cause the cell to disintegrate. The membrane is picky about which molecules it lets in or out. It allows movement across its barrier by diffusion, osmosis, or active transport as follows: a. Diffusion : This is a spontaneous spreading, or migration, of molecules or other particles from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration until equilibrium occurs. Diffusion is one form of passive transport that doesnt require the expenditure of cellular energy. A molecule can diffuse passively through the cell membrane if its lipid-soluble, uncharged, and very small, or if it can be assisted by a carrier molecule. The unassisted diffusion of very small or lipid-soluble particles is called simple diffusion. The assisted process is known as facilitated diffusion. The cell membrane allows nonpolar molecules (those that dont readily bond with water) to flow from an area where theyre highly concentrated to an area where theyre less concentrated. Embedded with the hydrophilic heads in the outer layer are protein molecules called channel proteins that create diffusion-friendly openings for the molecules to diffuse through. b. Osmosis : This form of passive transport is similar to diffusion and involves a solvent moving through a selectively permeable or semipermeable membrane from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration. Solutions are composed of two parts: a solvent and a solute. The solvent is the liquid in which a substance is dissolved; water is called the universal solvent because more materials dissolve in it than in any other liquid. A solute is the substance dissolved in the solvent. Typically, a cell contains a roughly 1 percent saline solution in other words, 1 percent salt (solute) and 99 percent water (solvent). Water is a polar molecule that will not pass through the lipid bilayer; however, it is small enough to move through the pores of most cell membranes. Osmosis occurs when theres a difference in molecular concentration of water on the
A.G Serencio, RN

two sides of the membrane. The membrane allows the solvent (water) to move through but keeps out the particles dissolved in the water. Transport by osmosis is affected by the concentration of solute (the number of particles) in the water. One molecule or one ion of solute displaces one molecule of water. Osmolarity is the term used to describe the concentration of solute particles per liter. As water diffuses into a cell, hydrostatic pressure builds within the cell. Eventually, the pressure within the cell becomes equal to, and is balanced by, the osmotic pressure outside. An isotonic solution has the same concentration of solute and solvent as found inside a cell, so a cell placed in isotonic solution typically 1 percent saline solution for humans experiences equal flow of water into and out of the cell, maintaining equilibrium. A hypotonic solution has less solute and higher water potential than inside the cell. An example is 100 percent distilled water, which has less solute than whats inside the cell. Therefore, if a human cell is placed in a hypotonic solution, molecules diffuse down the concentration gradient until the cells membrane bursts. A hypertonic solution has more solute and lower water potential than inside the cell. So the membrane of a human cell placed in 10 percent saline solution (10 percent salt and 90 percent water) would let water flow out of the cell (from higher concentration inside to lower concentration outside), therefore shrinking it. c. Active transport: This movement occurs across a semipermeable membrane against the normal concentration gradient, moving from the area of lower concentration to the area of higher concentration and requiring an expenditure of energy released from an ATP molecule. Embedded with the hydrophilic heads in the outer layer of the membrane are protein molecules able to detect and move compounds through the membrane. These carrier or transport proteins interact with the passenger molecules and use the ATP-supplied energy to move them against the gradient. The carrier molecules combine with the transport molecules most importantly amino acids and ions to pump them against their concentration gradients. Active transport lets cells obtain nutrients that cant pass through the membrane by other means. In addition, there are secondary active transport processes that are similar to diffusion but instead use imbalances in electrostatic forces to move molecules across the membrane. Nucleus The cell nucleus is the largest cellular organelle and the first to be discovered by scientists. On average, it accounts for about 10 percent of the total volume of the cell, and it holds a complete set of genes. The outermost part of this organelle is the nuclear envelope, which is composed of a double-membrane barrier, each membrane of which is made up of a phospholipid bilayer. Between the two membranes is a fluid-filled space called the perinuclear cisterna. The two layers fuse to form a selectively permeable barrier, but large pores allow relatively free movement of molecules and ions, including large protein molecules. Intermediate filaments lining the surface of the nuclear envelope make up the nuclear lamina, which functions in the disassembly and reassembly of the nuclear membrane during mitosis and binds the membrane to the endoplasmic reticulum. The nucleus also contains nucleoplasm, a clear viscous material that forms the matrix in which the organelles of the nucleus are embedded. DNA is packaged inside the nucleus in structures called chromatin, or chromatin networks. During cell division, the chromatin contracts, forming chromosomes. Chromosomes contain a DNA molecule encoded with the genetic information needed to direct the cells activities. The most prominent subnuclear body is the nucleolus, a small spherical body that stores RNA molecules and produces ribosomes, which are exported to the cytoplasm where they translate messenger RNA (mRNA).

A.G Serencio, RN

Organelles and Their Functions Molecules that pass muster with the cell membrane enter the cytoplasm, a mixture of macromolecules such as proteins and RNA and small organic molecules such as glucose, ions, and water. Because of the various materials in the cytoplasm, its a colloid, or mixture of phases, that alternates from a sol (a liquid colloid with solid suspended in it) to a gel (a colloid in which the dispersed phase combines with the medium to form a semisolid material). The fluid part of the cytoplasm, called the cytosol, has a differing consistency based on changes in temperature, molecular concentrations, pH, pressure, and agitation. Within the cytoplasm lies a network of fibrous proteins collectively referred to as the cytoskeleton. Its not rigid or permanent but changing and shifting according to the activity of the cell. The cytoskeleton maintains the cells shape, enables it to move, anchors its organelles, and directs the flow of the cytoplasm. The fibrous proteins that make up the cytoskeleton include the following: Microfilaments, rodlike structures about 5 to 8 nanometers wide that consist of a stacked protein called actin, the most abundant protein in eukaryotic cells. They provide structural support and have a role in cell and organelle movement as well as in cell division. Intermediate filaments, the strongest and most stable part of the cytoskeleton. They average about 10 nanometers wide and consist of interlocking proteins, including keratin, that chiefly are involved in maintaining cell integrity and resisting pulling forces on the cell. Hollow microtubules about 25 nanometers in diameter that are made of the protein tubulin and grow with one end embedded in the centrosome near the cells nucleus. Like microfilaments, these components of cilia, flagella, and centrioles provide structural support and have a role in cell and organelle movement as well as in cell division. Organelles, literally translated as little organs, are nestled inside the cytoplasm (except for the two organelles that move, cilia and flagellum, which are found on the cells exterior). Each organelle has different responsibilities for producing materials used elsewhere in the cell or body. 1. Centrosome: Microtubules sprout from this structure, which is located next to the nucleus and is composed of two centrioles arrays of microtubules that function in separating genetic material during cell division. 2. Cilia: These are short, hair-like cytoplasmic projections on the external surface of the cell. In multicellular animals, including humans, cilia move materials over the surface of the cell. In some single-celled organisms, theyre used for locomotion. 3. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER): This organelle makes direct contact with the cell nucleus and functions in the transport of materials such as proteins and RNA molecules. Composed of membrane-bound canals and cavities that extend from the nuclear membrane to the cell membrane, the ER is the site of lipid and protein synthesis. The two types of ER are rough, which is dotted with ribosomes on the outer surface; and smooth, which has no ribosomes on the surface. 4. Flagellum: This whip-like cytoplasmic projection lies on the cells exterior surface. Found in humans primarily on sperm cells, its used for locomotion. 5. Golgi apparatus (or body): This organelle consists of a stack of flattened sacs with membranes that connect with those of the endoplasmic reticulum. Located near the nucleus, it functions in the storage, modification, and packaging of proteins for secretion to various destinations within the cell. 6. Lysosome: A tiny, membranous sac containing acids and digestive enzymes, the lysosome breaks down large food molecules such as proteins, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids into materials that the cell can use. It destroys foreign particles in the cell and helps to remove nonfunctioning structures from the cell.
A.G Serencio, RN

7. Mitochondrion: Called the powerhouse of the cell, this rod-shaped organelle consists of two membranes a smooth outer membrane, and an invaginated (folded inward) inner membrane that divides the organelle into compartments. The inward-folding crevices of the inner membrane are called cristae. The mitochondrion provides critical functions in cell respiration, including oxidizing (breaking down) food molecules and releasing energy that is stored in ATP molecules in the mitochondrion. This energy is used to accelerate chemical reactions in the cell 8. Ribosomes: These roughly 25-nanometer structures may be found along the endoplasmic reticulum or floating free in the cytoplasm. Composed of 60 percent RNA and 40 percent protein, they translate the genetic information on RNA molecules to synthesize, or produce, a protein molecule. 9. Vacuoles: More commonly found in plant cells, these open spaces in the cytoplasm sometimes carry materials to the cell membrane for discharge to the outside of the cell. In animal cells, food vacuoles are membranous sacs formed when food masses are pinched-off from the cell membrane and passed into the cytoplasm of the cell. This process, called endocytosis (from the Greek words meaning within the cell), requires energy to move large masses of material into the cell. Vacuoles also help to remove structural debris, isolate harmful materials, and export unwanted substances from the cell.

Putting Together New Proteins Proteins are essential building blocks for all living systems, which helps explain why the word is derived from the Greek term proteios, meaning holding first place. Cells use proteins to perform a variety of functions, including providing structural support and catalyzing reactions. Cells synthesize proteins through a systematic procedure that begins in the nucleus when the gene code for a certain protein is transcribed from the cells DNA into messenger RNA, or mRNA. The mRNA moves through nuclear pores to the rough endoplasmic reticulum (ER), where ribosomes translate the message one codon of three nucleotides, or base pairs, at a time. The ribosome uses transfer RNA, or tRNA, to fetch each required amino acid and then link them together through peptide bonds, also known as amide bonds, to form proteins. Proteins are chains of amino acids (usually very long chains of at least 100 acids). Enzymes, used to catalyze reactions, also are chains of amino acids and therefore also are categorized as proteins. Polypeptides, or simply peptides, are shorter chains of amino acids used to bond larger protein molecules, but they also can be regarded as proteins. Both antibodies and hormones also are proteins, along with almost everything else in the body hair, muscle, cartilage, and so on. Even the four basic blood types A, B, AB, and O are differentiated by the proteins found in each. Cycling Along: Grow, Rest, Divide, Die The cell life cycle, usually referred to simply as the cell cycle or the CDC (cell division cycle), extends from the beginning of one cell division to the beginning of the next division. The human body produces new cells every day to replace those that are damaged or worn out. The cell cycle is divided into two distinct phases: 1. Interphase: Sometimes also called the resting stage, that label is a misnomer because the cell is actively growing and carrying out its normal metabolic functions as well as preparing for cell division. 2. Mitosis: The period of cell division that produces new cells. New cells are produced for growth and to replace the billions of cells that stop functioning in the adult human body every day. Some cells, like blood and skin cells, are continually dividing because they have very short life cycles, sometimes only hours. Other cells, such as specialized muscle cells and certain nerve cells, may never divide at all.

A.G Serencio, RN