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Cells: The Fundamental Units of Life

Introduction:
Eric A. Shelden, Ph.D.
341 Biotechnology Life Sciences (Same building as
Dr. Davis)
eshelden@vetmed.wsu.edu
509-335-2368
Office hours: Tuesday from 12-2

The Cell Theory:


All organisms are
made of cells, they
can be unicellular
or multicellular
The cell is the
simplest collection
of matter
that can be alive

Astrocyte (Gary Shaw)

All cells are related by their descent from earlier


cells

Figure 6.4

Differential
centrifugation

Concept 6.1: How do we study cells? (your


book covers fractionation and microscopy)

Homogenization
Tissue
cells

Cell fractionation takes cells apart and


separates the major components from one another

Homogenate

Centrifugation

Cell fractionation enables scientists to determine


the functions of organelles and cellular
components in isolation

1,000 g
10 min

Supernatant poured into next tube


20,000 g
20 min

Cellular components have industrial and medical


applications

Pellet rich in
nuclei and
cellular debris

80,000 g
60 min
150,000 g
3 hr

Pellet rich in
mitochondria
and chloroplasts
Pellet rich in
microsomes

Progressively
faster
centrifugation
recovers
progressively
smaller
components

Pellet rich in
ribosomes

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Figure 6.2c

Microscopy: How big are cells and their parts?

Electron microscopy
Light microscopy

Superresolution
microscopy

Unaided eye

Human
height

10 m

Length
of some
nerve
and
muscle Chicken
egg
cells

1m

0.1 m

1 cm

Nucleus
Most
bacteria

Frog Human
egg egg

Most
plant
and
animal
cells

1 mm 100 m

10 m

Smallest
bacteria
Small
Viruses Proteins molecules

Mitochondrion

1 m

Ribosomes

100 m

Lipids

10 nm

Atoms

1 nm

0.1 nm

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Three important parameters of a microscope


1. Resolution, the measure of the clarity of the
image, or the minimum distance of two
distinguishable points, is dependent on the
wavelength of energy used for imaging.

Can see accurately with light:


Whole Cells
Nuclei
Large organelles like mitochondria,
chloroplasts
Large bacteria
Cannot see accurately with light:
Ribosomes
Viruses
Protein complexes
Smallest bacteria
Proteins and macromolecules
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Resolution, the measure of the clarity of the image, or


the minimum distance of two distinguishable points, is
dependent on the wavelength of energy used to create

an image.
Smallest
Resolvable
diameter

2. Contrast, visible differences in brightness


between parts of the sample
3. Magnification, the ratio of an objects image
size to its real size
Sir George
Biddell Airy,
1801-1892

Various techniques enhance contrast and enable


cell components to be stained or labeled

50 m

The resolution of standard light microscopy is too low


to study most eukaryotic organelles.

Bright field
(unstained specimen,
low contrast)

Contrast
produced
using
optical
methods

This number is
bigger than
bacteria, viruses,
ribosomes, etc.
0.2 um

Phase-contrast

Figure 6.3ba

Fluorescence microscopy is useful because multiple


cell components can be specifically labeled with
very high specificity and contrast

Bright field (specimens stained with


chemical to enhance contrast)

Light passing through different


parts of a cell are slowed down to
different degrees. Phase
contrast microscopy combines
light passing through the
specimen with a reference beam
of light to create contrast in
different areas.

Magnification
Imaging devices have discrete detector elements

Green:
Actin
Red:
Mitoch
ondria
Blue:
DNA

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Rods and Cones in Eye


Magnification determines the number
of detector elements that the image of
a resolved object falls on.
The image of a resolved object should
fall on 2 or more imaging elements

Pixels in Digital Camera

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Electron microscopy
Resolution is dependent on the wavelength of
energy used to create an image.
The wavelength of electrons is much smaller than
that of photons, but
Electrons travel only short distances, so specimens
must be sliced thinly and in a vacuum.

Two basic types of electron microscopes


(EMs) are used to study subcellular structures
Scanning electron microscopes (SEMs)
bounces a beam of electrons off the surface of
a specimen, providing images that look 3-D
Transmission electron microscopes (TEMs)
focus a beam of electrons through a thin,
stained specimen
Electrons do not travel through things (including
air) very well, so specimens must be thin (or a
surface) and in a vacuum.

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Concept 6.2: Eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells


Cilia seen using light and
electron microscopy

prokaryotes

Every organism is made up of one of two types of


cells: prokaryotic or eukaryotic

Scanning electron
microscopy (SEM)

Transmission electron
microscopy (TEM)

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Commonalities of Prokaryotic and


Eukaryotic Cells
Plasma membrane

Differences between Prokaryotic and


Eukaryotic cells
Eukaryotic (eu=true and karyon = kernel) cells are
characterized by having

Aqueous semifluid substance called cytosol

DNA in a nucleus that is bounded by a membranous


nuclear envelope

Chromosomes (carry genes)


Ribosomes (make proteins)

Membrane-bound organelles

Many, many others: for example, use ATP as an


energy source, DNA is the genetic material,
nucleotide codons are mostly the same

Eukaryotic cells are generally larger than prokaryotic cells


Eukaryotic cells are more complex than prokaryotic cells
Prokaryotic (pro=before)

Ribosomes in prokaryotes and eukaryotes

Differences: Prokaryotes
Fimbriae
Nucleoid

No nucleus
DNA in an unbound
region called the
nucleoid
No membranebound organelles!

Ribosomes

Bacterial 70S ribosome


has a large (50S) and
small (30S) subunit

Plasma membrane
Cell wall
Bacterial
chromosome

Capsule
Flagella

A typical
rod-shaped
bacterium

Flagella but,
structurally and
mechanically distinct
from eukaryotic
Many others, which can form targets for
flagella

Eukaryotic cells have an 80S


ribosome with large (60S)
and small (40S) particles.
Ribosomal particles are
comprised of two large
ribosomal RNAs, several
smaller ones, and numerous
accessory proteins

therapeutic intervention

Eukaryotic cells: The Nucleus:

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Figure 6.9b

Figure 6.9c

1 m
0.25 m

Nuclear pores regulate the entry and exit of molecules


(RNA, proteins, etc) from the nucleus.

Nuclear envelope:
Inner membrane
Outer membrane

Pore complexes (TEM)

Important barrier
regulating traffic
and signaling
between the
cytoplasm and the
genome

Target of drugs
and pathogens

Nuclear pore

Surface of nuclear envelope


(TEM)
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Figure 6.9d

Nuclear lamina

Nucleolus

0.5 m

The nucleolus is
located within the
nucleus and is the
site of ribosomal
RNA (rRNA)
synthesis

Nuclear lamina (TEM)


The nuclear side of the envelop is lined by the nuclear
lamina, which is composed of proteins (called nuclear
lamins) and maintains the shape of the nucleus.
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http://millette.med.sc.edu/Lab%2
06%20pages/C18%20image%2
0page.htm

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EM of a plasma cell

In the nucleus, DNA is


organized into discrete units
called chromosomes
Each chromosome is
composed of a single DNA
molecule associated with
structural proteins
The DNA and proteins of
chromosomes are together
called chromatin
Modification of chomosomal
proteins contributes to
epigenetic regulation

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Mengovirus, also known as Columbia SK virus, mouse


Elberfield virus and Encephalomyocarditisvirus (EMCV)

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from Bardina et al. (2009).