6 Cell Types and Their Characteristics - Summary with Schematics

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There is an element that makes us equal to all living beings: the cell. From tiny organisms to complex animals, we all have cells that allow us to carry out basic functions. This is why it is so important that we get to know them well.

In this Green Ecologist article we will delve into discovering six of the different Cell types that exist and their characteristics, as well as the parts of a cell, to learn a little more about what makes life possible.

What are cells and their characteristics

Cells are the basic functional and morphological units of all living things. Being the basic units, they have similar characteristics such as, for example, the ability to evolve, feed, grow, interact and reproduce. These are the characteristics of cells, since all cells have some equal characteristics between them:

  • They contain Genetic information stored in the form of DNA.
  • They are delimited from their environment by a plasma membrane which at the same time allows them to communicate with the outside.
  • They synthesize proteins using ribosomes.
  • They have a functional metabolism with biomolecules.
  • They have organelles suspended in a watery medium.
  • It is thanks to the processes that occur within these units that organisms can carry out their basic or vital functions. Here you can read about the vital functions of living beings.
  • In turn, cells are building blocks that shape different organisms to form organs or tissues.
  • Bacteria do not have the same needs as animals, there are unicellular organisms that do not require grouping to be functional and there are even some with locomotor capacity. This is why there are different types of cells, and below we will review how they differ from one another.

Prokaryotic cell

The first categorization of cells is based on the presence or absence of a nucleus. Thus, according to this classification, we find prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Focusing on prokaryotic cells, we can say the following:

  • Are lack a nucleus proper, which means that the genetic material that is usually stored within the nucleus is free in the cytoplasm, in a region known as the nucleoid. Right here the transcription of its messenger RNA occurs and is immediately translated by ribosomes. Likewise, their organelles do not have a membrane.
  • In addition to the aforementioned organelles that all cells contain, their delimitation to the outside is made up of a peptidoglycan cell wall to give rigidity and a polysaccharide glycocalyx to avoid being phagocytosed.
  • Its organelles are arranged in the cytoplasm which is fluid to the have no cytoskeleton.
  • They have inclusion bodies to store nutrients to be used if needed.
  • Some bacteria, called cyanobacteria, can be photosynthetic so they have pigmented thylakoids. Learn more about Cyanobacteria: what they are, characteristics and examples here.
  • For being single-celled organisms They have developed a series of adaptive organelles, such as flagella to mobilize, sexual pili to share genetic information, polysaccharide capsules to protect themselves from the environment, among others, which may or may not appear.

In this group, collected in the Monera Kingdom, are archaea and bacteria. Archaea are very primitive and therefore survived in extreme conditions, for example, without oxygen or at very high temperatures. Metabolically they are different from bacteria because they are chemoautotrophs, that is, they generate their energy through the synthesis of inorganic elements, while bacteria can have multiple types of metabolism. Learn more about the Monera Kingdom: what it is, characteristics, classification and examples.

Eukaryotic cell

Now we are going to get to know eukaryotic cells better, which are the opposite of prokaryotic cells.

  • The eukaryotic cell does have a nucleus that encapsulates genetic information, which is also arranged in chromosomes, and its organelles also have a membrane. The synthesis of its RNA occurs in the nucleus, and proteins are synthesized by ribosomes in the cytoplasm.
  • In this case there is a cytoskeleton very advanced composed of microtubules, which supports a variety of organelles that it has and that carry out the functions of cells.
  • The most distinctive is the mitochondrion, where respiration occurs and consequently energy production.
  • They also have the Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum, which contains ribosomes for protein synthesis, and the Smooth, which synthesizes lipids and eliminates cellular toxins.
  • The Golgi apparatus processes and transports products received from other organelles, to create vesicles ready to be used in the cell or on its surface.
  • The cell has lysosomes with enzymes to process molecules. Peroxisomes are similar, but they are specific for breaking down hydrogen peroxide resulting from oxidation.
  • They also have centrioles, which are necessary to form the mitotic spindle in meiosis.
  • They can present cilia or flagella, which are cells with processes to mobilize or capture particles.

Most living thingsWith the exception of the previously reviewed bacteria and archaea, they have this type of cell. Each group has particularities to respond to its needs. We recommend you read this other article to learn more about the Difference between eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. Next, we are going to delve into each of the eukaryotic cell types.

Plant cell

Within eukaryotic cells we can differentiate several types, let's start with the characteristics of plant cells:

  • The plant organisms require support, provided by the central vacuole that is filled with water to generate turgor and stiffness, as well as this is also provided by its cellulose and lignin cell walls.
  • They are also characterized by containing chloroplasts with chlorophyll, pigments that capture sunlight to carry out photosynthesis.
  • They have an organelle similar to the Golgi apparatus but it is called a dichthyosome, with the same functions as the previous one, but also helps cell division.
  • They have glyoxysomes, vesicles useful in germination to create carbohydrates from the fats in the seeds.
  • As they have cellulose cell walls, they require plasmodesmata to communicate between cells.

Learn much more about this type of cell with this other post in which you will see the different Parts of the plant cell. In addition, we encourage you to learn more about the organisms that have these cells by reading this other article from Kingdom Plantae: what it is, characteristics, classification and examples.

Image: Divers

Animal cell

Animal cells, which are what living beings have classified as animals and where human beings are included, are characterized by the following aspects:

  • They have no cell wall, chloroplasts or vacuole.
  • They contain all the basic organelles of eukaryotic cells, but this group has an advanced organization that generates organ-forming tissues.
  • This is achieved thanks to the specialization of your cells, which can be muscular to contract and relax to create movement, epithelial to protect from the outside, blood to transport molecules and nerves that carry electrical information.

Get to know them much better by reading our articles Parts of the animal cell and Animal Kingdom: what it is, characteristics, classification and examples. In addition, we recommend you learn about the Similarities and differences between the animal and plant cell.

Protist cell

After knowing two of the main types of eukaryotic cells, we go on to know another type less known in general but very important in nature, the protist cells:

  • These cells make up single-celled organisms, such as algae, protozoa or mycoids, so their cell type varies a lot.
  • What they do have in common is a alimentary vacuole and other contractile to regulate the water.
  • They can contain chloroplasts, cellulose, calcium carbonate, eye spots, among others.

Get to know the organisms that have this cell better by reading this article about the Protista Kingdom: what it is, characteristics, classification and examples.

Image: SlidePlayer

Fungal cell

It could be considered that fungi are more similar to plants than to animals, but the truth is that they are closer to the animal cell. These are the characteristics of fungal or fungal cells:

  • Like the animals, fungi are heterotrophs and they are not capable of photosynthesizing.
  • They differ by having a chitin cell wall and a cell membrane with ergosterols.
  • They have particular Wöroning organelles that regulate cytoplasmic products.
  • They also have lomasomes for extracellular excretion.
  • Its cells can form hyphae, thin and elongated structures like threads that form the characteristic fungal mycelium or vegetative body.
  • Some fungi, such as yeasts, can occur in unicellular shape, but the larger ones they are usually multicellular.
  • They can present Spiztenkörper, apical vesicles related to the elongation of their cells.
  • Like plant cells, they have plasmodes to communicate.

Now that you have known a little more in detail about the cells of fungi, here you will find more information about their kingdom, the Fungi Kingdom: what it is, characteristics, classification and examples.

Image: The Fungi Kingdom

If you want to read more articles similar to Cell types, we recommend that you enter our Biology category.

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  • Jungbauer, W., Randler, C., Reck, M., Stripf, R., (2006) Netzwerk Biologie 2. Braunschweig: Schrödel.
  • National Human Genome Research Institute (2022) Cell. Available at https://www.genome.gov/es/genetics-glossary/Celula
  • Sanquea, M., (2022) Eukaryotic cell: cellular organelles. Available at https://www.colegiosantodomingo.cl/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/01_Gu%C3%ADa-de-estudio_C%C3%A9lula-eucariota-Organelos-celulares.pdf
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