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(Science: Cell Biology)

1. The structural, functional and biological unit of all organisms.

2. An autonomous self-replicating unit that may exist as functional independent unit of life (as in the case of unicellular organism), or as sub-unit in a multicellular organism (such as in plants and animals) that is specialized into carrying out particular functions towards the cause of the organism as a whole.

3. A membrane bound structure containing biomolecules, such as nucleic acids, proteins, and polysaccharides.


There are two distinct types of cells: prokaryotic cells (e.g. bacterial cells) and eukaryotic cells (e.g. plant or animal cell). The main difference between the two is a well-defined nucleus surrounded by a membranous nuclear envelope present only in eukaryotic cells. Despite this difference they share a number of common features: the genetic information is stored in genes, proteins serve as their main structural material, ribosomes are used to synthesize proteins, adenosine triphosphate is the main source of metabolic energy to sustain various cellular processes, and a cell membrane that controls the flow of substances into and out of the cell.

Word origin: From Latin cella.
Related forms: cellular (adjective)
See also: cell biology, cytology, stem cell.