Notable Differences between Plant Cell and Animal Cell by Microbiologist

 

Summary of the Plant Cell and Animal Cell

  • Structurally, both the plant and animal cells have more similarities than differences. This is because they are both eukaryotic cells.
  • They both contain membrane-bound organelles such as the nucleus, mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, lysosomes, and peroxisomes.
  • Both also contain similar membranes, cytosol, and cytoskeletal elements.
  • Also, it should be noted that the functions of these organelles are extremely similar between the two classes of cells (peroxisomes perform additional complex functions in plant cells having to do with cellular respiration). However, the few differences that exist between plant and animals are very significant and reflect a difference in the functions of each cell.

Plant Cell

Plant cells are usually larger than animal cells. Their normal range for an animal cell varies from 10 to 30 micrometers while that for a plant cell stretches from 10 to 100 micrometers.

Beyond size, the main structural differences between plant and animal cells lie in a few additional structures found in plant cells. These structures include chloroplasts, the cell wall, and vacuoles.

Figure %: Plant Cell v. Animal Cell
 
Having highlighted the various parts as above, it's distinct and makes it easier to discuss the various different organelles encompassed within the animal and plant cell. 
 

Size

Animal cells are generally smaller than plant cells. Animal cells range from 10 to 30 micrometers in length, while plant cells range from 10 and 100 micrometers in length.

Shape

Animal cells come in various sizes and tend to have round or irregular shapes. Plant cells are more similar in size and are typically rectangular or cube shaped.

Energy Storage

Animals cells store energy in the form of the complex carbohydrate glycogen. Plant cells store energy as starch.

Proteins

Of the 20 amino acids needed to produce proteins, only 10 can be produced naturally in animal cells. The other so-called essential amino acids must be acquired through diet. Plants are capable of synthesizing all 20 amino acids.

Differentiation

In animal cells, only stem cells are capable of converting to other cell types. Most plant cell types are capable of differentiation.

Growth

Animal cells increase in size by increasing in cell numbers. Plant cells mainly increase cell size by becoming larger. They grow by absorbing more water into the central vacuole.

Cell Wall

Animal cells do not have a cell wall but have a cell membrane. Plant cells have a cell wall composed of cellulose as well as a cell membrane.

Centrioles

Animal cells contain these cylindrical structures that organize the assembly of microtubules during cell division. Plant cells do not typically contain centrioles.

Cilia

Cilia are found in animal cells but not usually in plant cells. Cilia are microtubules that aid in cellular locomotion.

Cytokinesis

Cytokinesis, the division of the cytoplasm during cell division, occurs in animal cells when a cleavage furrow forms that pinches the cell membrane in half. In plant cell cytokinesis, a cell plate is constructed that divides the cell.

Glyoxysomes

These structures are not found in animal cells but are present in plant cells. Glyoxysomes help to degrade lipids, particularly in germinating seeds, for the production of sugar.

Lysosomes

Animal cells possess lysosomes which contain enzymes that digest cellular macromolecules. Plant cells rarely contain lysosomes as the plant vacuole handles molecule degradation.

Plastids

Animal cells do not have plastids. Plant cells contain plastids such as chloroplasts, which are needed for photosynthesis.

Plasmodesmata

Animal cells do not have plasmodesmata. Plant cells have plasmodesmata, which are pores between plant cell walls that allow molecules and communication signals to pass between individual plant cells.

Vacuole

Animal cells may have many small vacuoles. Plant cells have a large central vacuole that can occupy up to 90% of the cell's volume.

Prokaryotic Cells

E. Coli Bacterium

CNRI / Getty Images 

Animal and plant eukaryotic cells are also different from prokaryotic cells like bacteria. Prokaryotes are usually single-celled organisms, while animal and plant cells are generally multicellular. Eukaryotic cells are more complex and larger than prokaryotic cells. Animal and plant cells contain many organelles not found in prokaryotic cells. Prokaryotes have no true nucleus as the DNA is not contained within a membrane, but is coiled up in a region of the cytoplasm called the nucleoid. While animal and plant cells reproduce by mitosis or meiosis, prokaryotes propagate most commonly by binary fission.

Plant and animal cells are not the only types of eukaryotic cells. Protists and fungi are two other types of eukaryotic organisms. Examples of protists include algae, euglena, and amoebas. Examples of fungi include mushrooms, yeasts, and molds.

In general here are the key points to pick from these discussion about the differences between plant and animal cells.

Animal cells

Animals are made up of millions of cells. Animal cells have an irregular structure and are made up of four key parts:

  • Nucleus – This contains genetic material (DNA), and controls the cell's activity.
  • Cell membrane – A flexible layer that surrounds the cell and controls the substances that enter and exit.
  • Cytoplasm – A jelly-like substance where the chemical reactions happen.
  • Mitochondria – This is where energy is released from the food molecules.

Plant cells

Plants are also made up of millions of cells. Plant cells have a nucleus, cell membrane, cytoplasm and mitochondria too, but they also contain the following structures:

  • Cell wall – A hard layer outside the cell membrane, containing cellulose to provide strength to the plant.
  • Vacuole – A space inside the cell that is used to store substances and help the cell keep its shape.
  • Chloroplasts – Structures that contain the green pigment chlorophyll, which are a key part of photosynthesis.


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Date published: 22/09/2017
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