Overview of the Cellular Basis of Life Overview of the Cellular Basis of Life The English scientist Robert Hooke first observed plant cells with a crude microscope in the late 1600s. However, it was not until the 1830s that two German scientists, Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann, were bold enough to insist that all living things are composed of cells.
The German pathologist Rudolf Virchow extended this idea by contending that cells arise only from other cells. Virchows proclamation was revolutionary because it openly challenged the widely accepted theory of spontaneous generation, which held that organisms arise spontaneously from garbage or other nonliving matter. Since the late 1800s, cell research has been exceptionally fruitful and provided us with four concepts collectively known as the cell theory:
1. A cell is the basic structural and functional unit of living organisms. So when you define cell properties you are in fact defining the properties of life. 2. The activity of an organism depends on both the individual and the collective activities of its cells. 3. According to the principle of complementarity, the biochemical activities of cells are dictated by the relative number of their specific subcellular structures. 4. Continuity of life has a cellular basis.
The cell is the smallest living unit. Whatever its form, however it behaves, the cell is the microscopic package that contains all the parts necessary to survive in an everchanging world. It follows then that loss of cellular homeostasis underlies virtually every disease. The trillions of cells in the human body include over 200 different cell types that vary greatly in shape,
size, and function. All cells are composed chiefly of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and trace amounts of several other elements. In addition, all cells have the same basic parts and some common functions. Human cells have three main parts: the plasma membrane, the cytoplasm, and the nucleus.
The plasma membrane, a fragile barrier, is the outer boundary of the cell. Internal to this membrane is the cytoplasm (sito-plazm), the to-plazm), the intracellular fluid that is packed with organelles, small structures that perform specific cell functions. The nucleus (nuto-plazm), the kle-us) controls cellular activities and lies near the cells center.
The Plasma Membrane: Structure The flexible plasma membrane defines the extent of a cell, thereby separating two of the bodys major fluid compartmentsthe intracellular fluid within cells and the extracellular fluid outside cells. The term cell membrane is commonly used as a synonym for plasma membrane, but because nearly all cellular organelles are enclosed in a membrane.
Structure of the plasma membrane according to the fluid mosaic model. The fluid mosaic model of membrane structure depicts the plasma membrane as an exceedingly thin (710 nm) structure composed of a double layer, or bilayer, of lipid molecules with protein molecules
dispersed in it. The proteins, many of which float in the fluid lipid bilayer, form a constantly changing mosaic pattern; hence the name of the model. The lipid bilayer, which forms the basic fabric of the membrane, is constructed largely of phospholipids, with smaller amounts of cholesterol and glycolipids. Each lollipop-shaped phospholipid molecule has a polar
head that is charged and is hydrophilic (hydro = water, philic = loving), and an uncharged, nonpolar tail that is made of two fatty acid chains and is hydrophobic (phobia = hating). The inward-facing and outward-facing surfaces of the plasma membrane differ in the kinds and amounts of lipids they contain. Glycolipids (gliko-lipto-plazm), the idz), phospholipids with attached sugar groups, are found only on the outer plasma membrane surface and account for about 5% of the total
membrane lipid. There are two distinct populations of membrane proteins, integral and peripheral. Integral proteins are firmly inserted into the lipid bilayer, most are transmembrane proteins that span the entire width of the membrane and protrude on both sides. Transmembrane proteins are mainly involved in transport. Some cluster together to form channels, or pores, through which small, water-soluble molecules or ions can move, thus bypassing the lipid part of the membrane.
Still others are receptors for hormones or other chemical messengers and relay messages to the cell interior (a process called signal transduction). Peripheral proteins, in contrast, are not embedded in the lipid. Instead, they attach rather loosely to integral proteins or membrane lipids and are easily removed without disrupting the membrane. Peripheral proteins include a network of filaments that helps support the membrane from its cytoplasmic side.
The Plasma Membrane: Functions Our cells are bathed in an extracellular fluid called interstitial fluid (inter-stish to-plazm), the al) that is derived from the blood. Interstitial fluid is like a rich, nutritious soup. It contains thousands of ingredients, including amino acids, sugars, fatty acids, vitamins, regulatory substances such as hormones and neurotransmitters, salts, and waste products. Although there is continuous traffic across the plasma membrane, it is a selectively, or differentially, permeable barrier, meaning that it allows some substances to pass while excluding others.
Thus, it allows nutrients to enter the cell, but keeps many undesirable substances out. At the same time, it keeps valuable cell proteins and other substances in the cell, but allows wastes to exit. Membrane Transport Substances move through the plasma membrane in essentially two wayspassively or actively. In passive processes, substances cross the membrane without any energy input from the cell: (The two main types of passive transport in cells are diffusion (di-futo-plazm), the zhun) and filtration).
In active processes, the cell provides the metabolic energy (ATP) needed to move substances across the membrane: (Primary and Secondary Active Transport). The ability of a solution to change the shape or tone of cells by altering their internal water volume is called tonicity (tono = tension). Solutions with the same concentrations of nonpenetrating solutes as those found in cells (0.9% saline or 5% glucose) are isotonic (the same tonicity). Cells exposed to such solutions retain their normal shape, and exhibit no net loss or gain of water (Figure 3.9a). As you might expect, the bodys extracellular
fluids and most intravenous solutions (solutions infused into the body via a vein) are isotonic. Solutions with a higher concentration of nonpenetrating solutes than seen in the cell (for example, a strong saline solution) are hypertonic. Cells immersed in hypertonic solutions lose water and shrink, or crenate (kreto-plazm), the nt) (Figure 3.9b). Solutions that are more dilute (contain a lower concentration of nonpenetrating solutes) than cells are called hypotonic. Cells placed in a hypotonic solution plump up rapidly as water rushes into them (Figure 3.9c). FIGURE 3.9 The effect of solutions of
varying tonicities on living red blood cells. The Cytoplasm Cytoplasm (cell-forming material) is the cellular material between the plasma membrane and the nucleus. It is the site where most cellular activities are accomplished. Although early microscopists thought that the cytoplasm was a structureless gel, the electron microscope has revealed that it consists of three major elements: the cytosol, organelles, and inclusions. The cytosol (sito-plazm), the to-sol) is the viscous, semitransparent fluid in which the other
cytoplasmic elements are suspended. It is a complex mixture with properties of both a colloid and a true solution. Dissolved in the cytosol, which is largely water, are proteins, salts, sugars, and a variety of other solutes. The cytoplasmic organelles are the metabolic machinery of the cell. Each type of organelle is engineered to carry out a specific function for the cellsome synthesize proteins, others package those proteins, and so on. Inclusions are chemical substances that may or may not be present, depending on cell type. Examples include stored nutrients, such as the glycogen granules abundant in liver and muscle cells; lipid droplets common in fat cells; pigment (melanin) granules seen in certain cells of skin and hair; water-containing vacuoles; and crystals of various types.
Cytoplasmic Organelles Mitochondria (mito-konto-plazm), the dreah) are threadlike (mitos = thread) or sausage-shaped membranous organelles. They are the power plants of a cell, providing most of its ATP supply. Electron micrograph of a mitochondrion (28,400).
Ribosomes (rito-plazm), the bo-smz) are small, dark-staining granules composed of proteins and a variety of RNA called ribosomal RNA. Ribosomes are sites of protein synthesis, a function we discuss in detail later in this chapter. Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum, the external surface of the rough ER is studded with ribosomes. Smooth Endoplasmic Reticulum is in communication with the rough ER and consists of tubules arranged in a looping network. Its enzymes (all integral proteins forming part of its
membranes) play no role in protein synthesis. Instead, they catalyze reactions involved with the following processes: 1. Lipid metabolism, cholesterol synthesis, and synthesis of the lipid components of lipoproteins (in liver cells) 2. Synthesis of steroid-based hormones such as sex hormones (testosterone-synthesizing cells of the testes are full of smooth ER) 3. Absorption, synthesis, and transport of fats (in intestinal cells) 4. Detoxification of drugs, certain pesticides, and carcinogens (in liver and kidneys)
5. Breakdown of stored glycogen to form free glucose (in liver cells especially) Golgi Apparatus The Golgi apparatus (golto-plazm), the je) consists of stacked and flattened membranous sacs, shaped like hollow dinner plates Its major function is to modify,
concentrate, and package the proteins and lipids made at the rough ER. Electron micrograph of the Golgi apparatus (28,000). Lysosomes Lysosomes function as a cells demolition crew by 1. Digesting particles taken in by endocytosis, particularly ingested bacteria, viruses, and
toxins 2. Degrading worn-out or nonfunctional organelles 3. Performing metabolic functions, such as glycogen breakdown and release 4. Breaking down nonuseful tissues, such as the webs between the fingers and toes of a developing fetus and the uterine lining during menstruation 5. Breaking down bone to release calcium ions into the blood
The Nucleus Anything that works, works best when it is controlled. For cells, the control center is the gene-containing nucleus (nucle = pit, kernel). The nucleus can be compared to a computer, design department, construction boss, and board of directorsall rolled into one. As the genetic library, it contains the instructions needed to build nearly all the bodys proteins.
Most cells have only one nucleus, but some, including skeletal muscle cells, bone destruction cells, and some liver cells, are multinucleate (mul t-nuto-plazm), the kle-t); that is, they have many nuclei. The nucleus has three recognizable regions or structures: the nuclear envelope (membrane), nucleoli, and chromatin. The nucleus is bounded by the nuclear envelope, a double membrane barrier separated by a fluid-filled
space (similar to the mitochondrial membrane). Nucleoli (nu-kleto-plazm), the o-li; little nuclei) are the darkstaining spherical bodies found within the nucleus. They are not membrane bounded. Nucleoli are associated with nucleolar organizer regions, which contain the DNA that issues genetic instructions for synthesizing ribosomal RNA (rRNA). Chromatin is composed of about 30% DNA, which is traditionally called our genetic material, about 60% globular histone proteins (histo-plazm), the tn), and about 10% RNA chains, newly formed or forming.
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