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Basic Structural Cell Components in Brief
Cell membrane structure
The cell membrane is a thin sheet of fat or lipids, interspersed with large protein molecules. A lipid molecule has two parts: the water-soluble end and the water-repellent end. The membrane is a double layer of phospholipid molecules.
The water-soluble ends form the outer surface, and the water-soluble ends fuse with each other.
The cell membrane controls the flow of substances into and out of the cell and maintains the integrity of the cell.
This fatty double layer includes:
• Phospholipids -fat molecules containing phosphorus;
• Cholesterol – fat molecules that stabilize the lipid layer;
• Glycoproteins, which are composed of protein and carbohydrate (sugar) molecules on the outer (outer) surface of the protein.
These are small, finger-like projections or folds of the cell membrane.
The function of microvilli is to increase the surface area of the cell. This allows cells to absorb more of their surroundings and secrete molecules more efficiently.
Types of cell junctions
Tight, or impenetrable, junctions
It is formed by fusion of protein molecules of adjacent cell membranes. Tight junctions are found in the epithelial cells lining the digestive tract.
Desmosomes, or anchoring, junctions
At these junctions, on the inside of neighboring cells, there are rivet-like thickenings called plaques. These are attached to opposite sides of the cell membrane by keratin filaments (flexible protein strands also used in hair).
Linker proteins extend from plaques and cross intercellular spaces.
Gap, or communication, junction
Proteins pass through both membranes of two adjacent cells.
Proteins are arranged in groups (connexons) that form hollow channels through the cell membrane.
These junctions are found in the heart muscle and in the muscle of the intestine.
The cell membrane is a protective barrier that controls what substances travel in and out of the cell. Although oxygen and carbon dioxide pass freely, other substances have difficulty passing through the membrane.
Cytoplasm (semifluid mixture) is the cellular material outside the nucleus (control center) and inside the cell (plasma membrane). In humans, as well as in all plants and other animals, the cytoplasm contains the cytosol (a gel-like fluid), cytoplasmic organelles (small organelles), and inclusions (chemical substances). Prokaryotic cells (bacteria and primitive algae) have cytoplasm and inclusions, but no organelles.
As a whole, the cytoplasm helps in the movement of organelles and the transport of substances within the cell; provides an environment in which biochemical reactions can occur; and helps support and shape cells.
It is a gel-like, translucent liquid consisting mainly of water. It contains dissolved sugars, salts and other solutes.
Larger molecules like proteins form colloids. The cytosol keeps other components of the cytoplasm in suspension.
Many important substances such as starch are thus stored in the cytosol until needed by the organelles in the cell.
The cytosol is able to change from a semi-fluid to a more solid state (by association with the cytoskeleton). It is important for many cell functions.
Inclusions are substances stored in the cytosol. Inclusion depends on cell type. In adipocytes (fatty cells), lipid (fat) droplets are included. Pigments (pigments) such as melanin in skin cells are also counted as inclusions.
Structure of the cytoskeleton
The cytoskeleton is a type of intracellular scaffolding.
It consists of a complex network of tiny protein fibers and tubules suspended in the cytosol (a gel-like fluid) inside the cell. The cytoskeleton is a dynamic structure that is constantly changing as the cell grows and especially when it divides. It consists of three types of protein structures: microtubules (small tubes); Microfilaments (small fibers); and intermediate filaments. None of these have a covering membrane.
• Microfilaments are thin strands of the protein actin.
• They are 5-9 nanometers (nm) wide.
• Actin subunits are organized into 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 frequently broken and reassembled.
• Microtubules are hollow cylinders of tubulin protein.
• They are about 20-25 nm wide.
• Tubulin subunits are spherical.
• Microtubules radiate from the centromere (the structure at the cell center).
• Like microfilaments, they are frequently broken and reassembled.
• Organelles are arranged along microtubules.
• These are fibers made from a range of proteins.
• Intermediate filaments are about 10 nm wide.
• These filaments extend throughout the cytoplasm.
They are attached to the cell membrane and can span the cell from one side to the other.
• Intermediate filaments form a lattice within the nucleus.
• Intermediate filaments are the most permanent and stable part of the cytoskeleton.
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