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Basic Structural Cell Components in Brief
Cell membrane structure
The cell membrane is a thin sheet of fats, or lipids, interspersed with large protein molecules. A lipid molecule has two halves: a water-soluble end and a water-repelling end. Membrane is a double layer of phospholipid molecules.
The water-tight ends make the outer edges and the ends of the fluid mixed in between.
The cell membrane controls the flow of substances in and out of cells, and maintains the integrity of the cell.
Double fat is:
• Phospholipids – fatty substances that contain phosphorus;
• cholesterol – fatty substances that maintain the lipid layer;
• glycoproteins, which are made of protein and carbohydrate (sugar) materials on the outer surface of the protein.
These are small, finger-like projections, or folds, of the cell membrane itself.
The function of microvilli is to increase the surface area of the cell. This allows the cell to absorb more substances from their environment and also to store materials more efficiently.
Types of cell junctions
Seal, or impermeable, junction
This is created by protein molecules of neighboring cell membranes that fuse together. Tight junctions are found between the epithelial cells that line the digestive tract.
Desmosome, or anchoring, junction
At these junctions, inside neighboring cells, there are thick patches called plaques. These are attached to the opposite side of the cell membrane by keratin filaments (soft protein fibers also used in hair).
Linker proteins are drawn from the plaques and cross the space between the cells.
Gap, or communication, meeting
Viruses pass through both membranes of two adjacent cells.
Proteins are organized into groups (connexons) which form hollow channels through cell membranes.
These connections are in the heart muscles and in the muscles of the stomach.
The cell membrane is a protective barrier that controls what substances travel in and out of the cell. Although oxygen and carbon dioxide pass through easily, other substances are difficult to pass through the skin.
Cytoplasm (semifluid mixture) is a cellular material outside the nucleus (control center) and inside the cell (plasma) membrane. In humans, and all other plants and animals, the cytoplasm contains cytosol (gellike fluid), cytoplasmic organelles (miniorganes), and inclusions (chemical substances). Prokaryotic cells (those of bacteria and algae) have cytoplasm and inclusions, but no organs.
In general, the cytoplasm helps in the movement of organelles and the transport of substances within the cell; provide an environment in which biochemical reactions can occur; and help to support and shape the cell.
This is a gel-like, semitransparent liquid mostly containing water. It contains dissolved sugars, salts, and other solutes.
Larger materials, such as proteins, form colloids. The cytosol holds other elements of the cytoplasm in suspension.
Many important substances, such as starch, are stored in the cytosol in this way until they are needed by the organs in the cell.
Cytosol is able to change from a liquid to a more solid state (in conjunction with the cytoskeleton). This is important for many cell functions.
Inclusions are substances stored in the cytosol. Inclusion depends on the cell type. In adipocytes (fat cells), lipid (fat) droplet is included. Pigments (colors) such as melanin in skin cells are also considered inclusions.
The cytoskeleton is a type of membrane inside a cell.
It consists of a complex network of small protein fibers and tubes suspended in the cytosol (gel like liquid) inside a cell. The cytoskeleton is a dynamic structure that changes constantly as the cell develops and even when it divides. It has three types of protein structures: microtubules (small tubes); microfilaments (small fibers); and intermediate filaments. None of these have a covering skin.
• Microfilaments are thin fibers of the protein actin.
• They are 5-9 nanometers (nm) wide.
• Units of actin are arranged in two chains.
• Actin has the ability to contract (shorten).
• Microfilaments form bundles, flat meshes, or three-dimensional networks.
• They are most abundant at the periphery of the cell.
• They are often broken down and put back together.
• Microtubules are hollow cylinders of the protein tubulin.
• They are about 20-25 nm wide.
• Tubulin subunits are spherical.
• Microtubules radiate from the centromere (the structure at the center of the cell).
• Like microfilaments, they are often broken down and clumped together.
• Organelles are arranged with microtubules.
The intermediate filaments
• These are fibers made from protein.
• The intermediate filaments are about 10 nm wide.
• These filaments extend throughout the cytoplasm.
They are attached to the cell membrane and can cross the cell from one side to the other.
• The intermediate filaments form a mesh inside the nucleus.
• The intermediate filaments are the most relevant and stable part of the cytoskeleton.
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