Organization of the Cell

A typical cell, as seen by the light microscope, is shown in Figure 2-1. Its two major parts are the nucleus and the cytoplasm. The nucleus is separated from the cytoplasm by a nuclear membrane, and the cytoplasm is separated from the surrounding fluids by a cell membrane, also called the plasma membrane.

The different substances that make up the cell are collectively called protoplasm. Protoplasm is composed mainly of five basic substances: water, electrolytes, proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates.

Water. The principal fluid medium of the cell is water, which is present in most cells, except for fat cells, in a concentration of 70 to 85 per cent. Many cellular chemicals are dissolved in the water. Others are suspended in the water as solid particulates. Chemical reactions take place among the dissolved chemicals or at the surfaces of the suspended particles or membranes.

Ions. The most important ions in the cell are potassium, magnesium, phosphate, sulfate, bicarbonate, and smaller quantities of sodium, chloride, and calcium. These are all discussed in more detail in Chapter 4, which considers the interrelations between the intracellular and extracellular fluids.

The ions provide inorganic chemicals for cellular reactions. Also, they are necessary for operation of some of the cellular control mechanisms. For instance, ions acting at the cell membrane are required for transmission of electrochemical impulses in nerve and muscle fibers.

Proteins. After water, the most abundant substances in most cells are proteins, which normally constitute 10 to 20 per cent of the cell mass. These can be divided into two types: structural proteins and functional proteins.

Structural proteins are present in the cell mainly in the form of long filaments that themselves are polymers of many individual protein molecules. A prominent use of such intracellular filaments is to form microtubules that provide the "cytoskeletons" of such cellular organelles as cilia, nerve axons, the mitotic spindles of mitosing cells, and a tangled mass of thin filamentous tubules that hold the parts of the cytoplasm and nucleoplasm together in their respective compartments. Extracellularly, fibrillar proteins are found especially in the collagen and elastin fibers of connective tissue and in blood vessel walls, tendons, ligaments, and so forth.

The functional proteins are an entirely different type of protein, usually composed of combinations of a few molecules in tubular-globular form. These


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  • Lavinia Whitfoot
    How protein tangled a mass of thin filaments tubules that hold cytoplasm and nucleoplasm?
    2 years ago