Difference between eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell

The eukaryotic cell it has a membrane that hides the nucleus separating it from the cytoplasm. The prokaryotic cell it does not have structures with membranes inside it, that is to say, its intracellular content is scattered in the cytoplasm.

All living things are made up of cells that, depending on their structure, can be eukaryotes or prokaryotes. The French naturalist, zoologist, and biologist Édouard Pierre Léon Chatton (1883-1947) was the first to distinguish between eukaryotic organisms, those with nucleus cells, and prokaryotes, which are anucleated.

Prokaryotic cell Eukaryotic cell
Definition Cell without a defined nucleus, its genetic material is scattered in the cytoplasm. Cell with a nucleus defined by a membrane that contains the genetic material.
Size Between 1 and 10 microns. Between 10 and 100 microns.
Form It can be spherical, cane, spelling or spiral. Although they are unicellular, they can form colonies. Very varied, they can constitute unicellular or multicellular organisms.
Genetic information Located in a nucleoid, without being surrounded by a membrane. DNA and proteins form the chromatin that is concentrated in the nucleus
Cell division Direct, mainly by binary fission. There is no mitotic spindle or microtubule. For mitosis and meiosis. It has a mitotic spindle or some form of microtubule arrangement.
People Expressed in groups called operons. Expressed individually; they possess introns and exons.
Ribosomes Present but small (70S) Present and great (80S)
Flagel Simple, made up of the flagellin protein. Compound, consisting of tubulin and other proteins.
Chromosomes Single circular chromosome. Multiple. Each with two chromatids, centromere and telomere.
Cellular wall Present Only present in plants and fungi.
Dominis Bacteria and Archaea The Eukarya domain that groups plants, animals and fungi.
Examples The bacterium Staphylococcus aureusthe arch Halobacterium salinarum. Bread yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogasterthe banana or banana Musa sp.

What is a eukaryotic cell?

The protozoan Blepharisma japonicum
The protozoa Blepharisma japonicum is an example of a eukaryotic cell.

The eukaryotic cell is the building block of the life of protozoa, fungi, plants and animals. It is characterized by keeping the genetic material packaged inside a membrane, forming the nucleus. It also has other intracellular structures surrounded by membranes, known as organelles: mitochondria, vesicles, chloroplasts, among others.

The word “eukaryote” comes from the Greek mewhich means “true” and caries, which means “new or core”. The eukaryotic cell is the basis for the classification of organisms within the domain Eukarya.

Characteristics of eukaryotic cells

  • Various forms: depending on the environment in which the cell is located, it can be spherical, cubic, pyramidal, flat or star-shaped.
  • Various sizes: eukaryotic cells can measure from 10 µm (like lymphocytes) to 100 µm (like adipocytes or fat cells).
  • Various functions: although eukaryotic unicellular beings, such as parasites, must perform all the functions necessary for their survival, in multicellular beings there are cells with different functions. For example, gut cells are designed to absorb nutrients and send them into the bloodstream, from where they are distributed. The root cells of plants absorb nutrients and water from the soil.
  • Presence of organelles: within the eukaryotic cell are structures that specialize in specific functions, including chloroplasts, the Golgi apparatus, mitochondria, vesicles, and lysosomes.

Classification of eukaryotic cells

There are two major groups of eukaryotic cells: the animal cell and the plant cell. A special case is achieved in the cells of fungi, which share characteristics of both animal and plant cells.

Animal cell

The animal cell has a plasma membrane, nucleus and cytoplasm. The genetic material is stored inside the nucleus and is made up of the nucleoplasm and the nuclear envelope. The cytoplasm produces most of the chemical reactions necessary for the proper functioning of the cell.

Animal cells have a plasma membrane composed of lipids and proteins, which is the barrier that prevents or allows the entry and exit of compounds into the cell. Because the animal cell does not perform photosynthesis, it does not have chloroplasts. Nor does it have a cell wall, like the plant cell.

Typical examples of animal cells are neurons in the nervous system, leukocytes in the immune system, eggs, and sperm in the reproductive system.

You may also be interested in seeing parts of the animal cell.

Plant cell

Like the animal cell, it has a differentiated nucleus, membrane, and cytoplasm. However, the plant cell contains chloroplastsstructures that are responsible for the process of photosynthesis.

Thanks to photosynthesis, plants absorb energy from the sun and capture carbon dioxide to synthesize organic compounds and release oxygen into the atmosphere.

In addition, plant cells have a cell wall, an external structure that covers the plasma membrane. The cell wall provides support and protection to the cell, while allowing intercellular communication.

You may also be interested to see Parts of the Plant Cell

Fungal cell

Fungal cells are eukaryotic and share common characteristics with animal and plant cells:

  • They have a cell wall like plant cells, whose chemical composition (chitin) varies depending on the species.
  • They do not photosynthesize, so their cells do not have chloroplasts, like the animal cell.

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What is a prokaryotic cell?

Eschericia coli prokaryotic bacteria
The bacterium Escherichia coli is a cylindrical bacillus that lives in the intestines of animals.

The prokaryotic cell is a simple organism composed of membrane and cytoplasm, which lack of core nor does it have organelles such as eukaryotic cells (mitochondria, chloroplasts, and endoplasmic reticulum). In addition, it has a cell wall that supports the cell.

The word “prokaryote” comes from the Greek prowhich means “before,” and caries, which means “new or core”. Metabolic reactions in prokaryotic cells are scattered throughout the cytoplasm. They can be autotrophic (such as cyanobacteria) or heterotrophic (such as lactobacilli).

Characteristics of prokaryotic cells

  • Various forms: prokaryotic cells can be spherical (as in staphylococci), cylindrical (as in Escherichia coli), spirals (like the Helicobacter pylori) or curved (like the Vibrio cholerae).
  • Various sizes: prokaryotic cells are smaller, can measure from 0.1 µm as mycoplasmas, to 20.0 µm as the Treponema pallidum, syphilis-causing agent.
  • Presence of cell wall: the cell membrane is surrounded by the cell wall composed of peptidoglycan, a polymer characteristic of bacteria.
  • Presence of capsule: some bacteria have a mucous layer on the outside, known as a capsule.

Classification of prokaryotic cells

Biologically, they can be classified into two main groups: archaea and bacteria.


Archaebacteria belong to the domain Archaea. These cells are microscopic and are wrapped in a cell wall, composed of a pseudopeptidoglycan, which protects them and gives them more resistance. They are found in marine and terrestrial environments. being able to survive under extreme environmental conditions where other living things do not survive. That is why they are given the adjective extremophiles.

Examples of archaea are the Methanothermus fervidusliving in hot springs (97ºC) and the Methanobacterium thermoaggreganswhich produces methane and lives at 65ºC.


Bacteria belong to the domain Bacteria. Its cell wall is composed of peptidoglycans and has ester-like lipids. Unlike archaebacteria, bacteria can produce spores and some photosynthesize.

Examples of bacteria are Helicobacter pyloricausative agent of gastric ulcers, and yogurt-producing bacteria, Lactobacillus bulgaricus i Streptococcus thermophiles.

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Difference between eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell

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