NCERT Chapter Summary: Cell - The Unit of Life

All organisms are made of cells or aggregates of cells. Cells vary in their shape, size and activities/functions. Based on the presence or absence of a membrane bound nucleus and other organelles, cells and hence organisms can be named as eukaryotic or prokaryotic.

A typical eukaryotic cell consists of a cell membrane, nucleus and cytoplasm. Plant cells have a cell wall outside the cell membrane. The plasma membrane is selectively permeable and facilitates transport of several molecules. The endomembrane system includes ER, golgi complex, lysosomes and vacuoles. All the cell organelles perform different but specific functions.

Centrosome and centriole form the basal body of cilia and flagella that facilitate locomotion. In animal cells, centrioles also form spindle apparatus during cell division. Nucleus contains nucleoli and chromatin network. It not only controls the activities of organelles but also plays a major role in heredity. Endoplasmic reticulum contains tubules or cisternae.

They are of two types: rough and smooth. ER helps in the transport of substances, synthesis of proteins, lipoproteins and glycogen. The golgi body is a membranous organelle composed of flattened sacs. The secretions of cells are packed in them and transported from the cell. Lysosomes are single membrane structures containing enzymes for digestion of all types of macromolecules.

Ribosomes are involved in protein synthesis. These occur freely in the cytoplasm or are associated with ER. Mitochondria help in oxidative phosphorylation and generation of adenosine triphosphate. They are bound by double membrane; the outer membrane is smooth and inner one folds into several cristae. Plastids are pigment containing organelles found in plant cells only.

In plant cells, chloroplasts are responsible for trapping light energy essential for photosynthesis. The grana, in the plastid, is the site of light reactions and the stroma of dark reactions. The green coloured plastids are chloroplasts, which contain chlorophyll, whereas the other coloured plastids are chromoplasts, which may contain pigments like carotene and xanthophyll. The nucleus is enclosed by nuclear envelope, a double membrane structure with nuclear pores. The inner membrane encloses the nucleoplasm and the chromatin material. Thus, cell is the structural and functional unit of life.