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noun, singular: cell

Membrane-bound structures that occur as functional independent units of life (such as in unicellular organisms, e.g. bacteria, protozoa, etc.), or as structural or fundamental units in a biological tissue specialized to perform a particular function in multicellular organisms (e.g. plants and animals).


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 the Latin cellula, meaning, a small room.

Word origin: From Latin cella.

Related forms: cellular (adjective).
Related terms: blood cells, cancer cells, connective tissue cells, epithelial cells, killer cells, liver cells, muscle cells, nerve cells, red blood cells, white blood cells.

See also: cell, cytology, tissue.