Cytoplasm: Function and Facts

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Cytoplasm has all of the contents in a cell that exist outside of the nucleus that are all encased in the cell membrane inside of the cell. Cytoplasm supports and suspends organelles and cellular molecules while performing processes such as cellular respiration for breathing, synthesizing proteins and having division of cells by both mitosis and meiosis.

What Are the Functions of Cytoplasm?

Cytoplasm is a clear substance that is gel-like in the cell membrane but is on the outside of the nucleus. It contains mostly water with the addition of enzymes, organelles, salts and organic molecules. Cytoplasm will liquefy when it is stirred or agitated. It is often referred to as cytosol, meaning "substance of the cell."

Cytoplasm supports and suspends cellular molecules and organelles. Organelles are tiny cellular structures within the cytoplasm that perform specific functions in bacteria or prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells of plants, animals and humans. Cytoplasm also helps to move things around in the cells such as hormones and dissolves any cellular waste that may occur.

Cytoplasm moves items around in the cell in a process called cytoplasmic streaming. It also has numerous salts, so it conducts electricity very well. Cytoplasm is also a means of transportation for genetic material in cell division. It is a buffer to protect the genetic material of the cell and keep the organelles from damage when they move and collide with each other. If a cell would be without cytoplasm it could not retain its shape and would be deflated and flat. The organelles would not stay suspended in the solution of a cell without the support of cytoplasm.

What Are the Parts of Cytoplasm?

Cytoplasm has two main components: the endoplasm and the ectoplasm. The endoplasm is located in the central area of the cytoplasm, and it contains organelles. The ectoplasm is the gel-like substance on the outer portion of the cytoplasm of a cell.

What Are the Characteristics of Cytoplasm?

Cytoplasm is a heterogeneous mixture of both opaque granules and organic compounds. This combination of these two components gives it the colloidal nature to suspend the organelles in the liquid of the cytoplasm in a cell.

Cytoplasm contains many different shapes and sizes of particles in it and holds them in place in the cell. Cytoplasm contains proteins that are 20 to 25 percent soluble, and this includes enzymes. Carbohydrates, lipids and inorganic salts are particles in cytoplasm.

The outermost layer of cytoplasm, the plasmogel, can absorb water or remove it, and it is based on the cells need for liquid. This is called the stomatal guard cell in plants leaves.

The chemical composition of cytoplasm is 90 percent water and 10 percent of organic and inorganic compounds that vary in proportions.

What Are the Differences between Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells?

Prokaryotic cells belong to organisms such as bacteria, and they do not have a nucleus that is bound inside of the cells. In these types of cells, the cytoplasm is all of the contents of the cell that are bound by the outer cell membrane. In eukaryotic cells in plants, animals and humans, there is a nucleus, and the cytoplasm surrounding it has three main components of cytosol, organelles and cytoplasmic inclusions.

The nucleus of a cell is the command center. It is a structure containing the hereditary information, and its job is to control the growth and reproduction of a cell. The nucleus is the most prominent organelle in all cells. The nucleus is surrounded by a nuclear envelope which is a double membrane. It separates the contents of the nucleus from the cytoplasm with a double layer of lipids.

The envelope maintains the shape of the nucleus and regulates how the molecules flow both in and out of the nucleus through tiny holes called nuclear pores. The nucleus contains the chromosomes of DNA for heredity information and instructions that tell cells when to grow, develop and reproduce through chemical messages with other cells.

The cytosol is the liquid or semi fluid component in cytoplasm on the outside of the nucleus. Organelles perform specific functions in the cell. The cytoskeleton is located in the cytoplasm as fibers that help cells to maintain their shape, and they also provide support for organelles to survive and remain suspended in the liquid.

Organelles are tiny structures within a cell that each perform a specific function in the cell. Some examples of organelles are mitochondria, ribosomes, nucleus, lysosomes, chloroplasts, endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus.

Mitochondria generate power by the conversion of energy forms that the cell can use. The mitochondria are responsible for cellular respiration to generate fuel for the cells' activities from the food a person eats. You need to have energy at the cellular level to have cell division, cell growth and even cell death after division.

Ribosomes are organelles located in the cell that consist of proteins and your DNA. Ribosomes have the important and specific task of assembling all of the proteins in the cells. Ribosomes have a large and a small sub-unit that are synthesized in the nucleolus and then cross over to the cytoplasm through nuclear pores in the nuclear membrane. Ribosomes attach to messengers of RNA, and transfer it to the genetic material in proteins. They also link amino acids together, forming polypeptide chains that are modified and then become functional as proteins.

Lysosomes are sacs full of about 50 different enzymes that digest proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. It has a membrane to keep the internal compartment of the lysosome acidic, and it separates the digestive enzymes from the rest of the cell.

Chloroplasts are found in plant cells as an organelle. They store and collect substances that are needed for producing energy. It has a green pigment of chlorophyll to absorb light for photosynthesis, has its own DNA and reproduces in a process that is similar to binary fission of bacteria.

The endoplasmic reticulum plays the important role in producing, processing and transporting proteins and lipids for all the components in a cell.

The Golgi apparatus has the specific task of manufacturing, storing and shipping cellular products from the endoplasmic reticulum. There can be only a few Golgi apparatus or many in a cell depending on the type of cell.

Cytoplasmic inclusions are particles that are temporarily suspended in the cytoplasm of a cell. They may be macromolecular or granules such as secretory and nutritive inclusions and pigment granules. Secretory inclusions secrete something out of them such as acids, enzymes and proteins. Nutritive inclusions help give you nutrition such as the glucose storage molecules and lipids. The melanin in your skin cells is a pigment granule inclusion that controls your skin tone. Cytoplasmic inclusions are non-soluble and act as stored fats and sugars to use for cellular respiration.

What Is Cyclosis?

Cyclosis is also known as cytoplasmic streaming. It is the process by which substances move around in a cell. It occurs in different types of cells such as amoeba, fungi, plant cells and protozoa. The movement can be affected by temperature, light, chemicals or hormones.

Plants shuttle chloroplasts to areas that get the most sunlight, so they the plant organelles with the specific function of photosynthesis, which requires light. Amoeba and slime mold use this process for locomotion to move and capture food to survive. Cytoplasmic streaming is also required for both mitosis and meiosis in cell division to distribute the cytoplasm among the daughter cells from the parent cell.

Cyclosis occurs when the cytoplasm churns and creates a flow for materials through the cytosol. It can distribute nutrients and genetic information to pass through it from one organelle to the next organelle. For example, if one organelle produces a fatty acid or a steroid it can move through cyclosis to another organelle that needs it for good health in a cell. Cytoplasic streaming has another function of actually allowing a cell to move. In a cell with tiny hair like appendages outside the cell, the appendages allow them to move. In an amoeba the only manner in which a cell can move is through cyclosis.

How Does Cytoplasm Work in Animal Cells?

Animal cell cytoplasm is a gel-like material made of mostly water that fills the cells around the nucleus. It contains proteins and molecules that are particularly important for all cell health. The cytoplasm in an animal cell includes salts, sugars, amino acids, carbohydrates and nucleotides. Cytoplasm keeps all the cellular organelles suspended and helps in the movement of the cell through the cytoplasmic streaming process.

How Does Cytoplasm Work in Plant Cells?

Cytoplasm works in plant cells much like it does in animal cells. It provides support to the internal structures, is the suspension medium for the organelles and maintains the shape of a cell. It stores chemicals that are vital to plants for life and provides metabolic reactions such as synthesis of proteins and glycolysis. It supports cytoplasmic streaming around the vacuoles, which are spaces in the cytoplasm of a cell that are containing the fluid.

What Is a Cytoplasm Analogy?

In order to see the large picture of a cytoplasm analogy of a restaurant it is best to represent the entire cell through an analogy.

The entire cell represents the entire restaurant, as it requires many different parts inside to function, just as cells have organelles for specific functions.

The cell membrane represents the restaurant doors as the restaurant doors allow people to enter and exit just as the membrane controls what items can enter and exit the entire cell.

The cytoplasm of a cell is represented by the restaurant floor. The restaurant floor holds tables, chairs and all objects in place, whereas the cytoplasm keeps all the organelles suspended in their places.

The nucleus of a cell is like a restaurant manager as the nucleus has control over what happens in the cell just as a restaurant manager controls the activities in the restaurant.

The cell's mitochondria are like the burger drawers to keep burgers warm until a customer orders their food. The mitochondria store all the energy that is obtained from the food and then share with the organelles when they need it.

The cell's endoplasmic reticulum is the same as the kitchen in the restaurant. The endoplasmic reticulum produces substances that are used in the cell and throughout the entire body such as fats and proteins that are needed for health. The kitchen produces many products that can be used in the restaurant, or they may be ordered at a drive through window for take out.

The cell's Golgi bodies and vesicles are akin to the front counter in a restaurant where employees put orders in bags to be eaten in the restaurant or in to go bags for customers to take with them to eat. The Golgi bodies serve to sort and transfer substances to be used in the cell or to transfer them out of the cell.

References

About the Author

Mary Lougee has been writing about chemistry, biology, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus for more than 12 years. She gained the knowledge in these fields by taking accelerated classes throughout college while gaining her degree.

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