Eukaryotic cell structures review

Key terms

TermMeaning
CellBasic unit of living things
OrganelleSpecialized cell structure that performs a specific function

Eukaryote-specific organelles

OrganelleFunction
NucleusStores genetic information; controls all cell activities
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER)Network of tubes and membranes that carry material through the cell and play a role in protein modification and lipid synthesis; has two parts: rough ER (contains ribosomes) and smooth ER (does not contain ribosomes)
Golgi bodyFlattened membrane discs that package and sort proteins
MitochondriaBreaks down sugar into energy for the cell
ChloroplastUses light energy to make food for plant cells
VacuoleStorage site for food, water, and waste; large central vacuole helps maintain the shape of plant cells
LysosomeBreaks down large molecules and digests old cell parts
Plant cell and animal cell with eukaryotic structures labeled
Plant cell (left) and animal cell (right). Images modified from Siavula Education, CC-BY 2.0.

Common mistakes and misconceptions

  • Plant cells have both mitochondria and chloroplasts. Some people believe that only animal cells have mitochondria, and plant cells have chloroplasts instead. However, plants need both chloroplasts and mitochondria to undergo photosynthesis and cellular respiration, respectively.
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