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Unit 2 - Cell Structure

Students of GCSE Biology will be expected to familiarise themselves with the various features of plant and animal cells, such as the nucleus or the mitochondria for example. This quiz on cell structure will help them to do just that.

In the early 1800s, Scottish scientist Robert Brown was examining plant cells under a microscope when he noticed that there was a similar structure in each and every cell he looked at. It had been seen before but it was Brown who first realised it was present in all plant cells, and he called it ‘the nucleus’.

We now know that animal and plant cells have many features in common - a nucleus, cytoplasm, mitochondria, ribosomes and a cell membrane. Plant cells have chloroplasts for photosynthesis, a permanent vacuole and a cell wall. Brown had no idea of the importance of the nucleus, or that it was also found in animal cells too, but scientists have gradually discovered more and more about how cells work.

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In the exam, you could be asked to draw and label a plant or animal cell; fill in missing labels or show the examiners that you understand what each part of a cell does, so here's a recap:

The nucleus contains the DNA of an organism and it is this that instructs the cell what to do and how to do it. Most cells contain DNA but bacterial cells do not have a nucleus as the DNA is simply found in the cytoplasm. The cytoplasm is a jelly-like liquid that contains the chemicals required for the cell to function. Cell membranes allow some substances into and out of the cell whilst blocking others. It is because of this that it is said to be a semi-permeable membrane. Mitochondria are the engines of life as they provide energy from respiration. The cell wall (where present) provides support and structure for a cell and is freely permeable. All cell types have ribosomes for making proteins.

In organisms other than single celled ones, you will always find a variety of different cells. Each one of these is perfectly adapted to its job, for example, sperm cells have a tail that they use to propel themselves to the ovum; root hair cells in plants have a long and very fine process that has a large surface area allowing it to absorb water and minerals more efficiently. For the exam, you need to know how each of the specialist cells are adapted to their function.

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  1. All cells, including the bacteria shown here, contain ribosomes. What is the function of ribosomes?
    Many of the chemical reactions in a cell involve the creation of proteins
  2. This plant cell is packed with structures which make sugars by the process of photosynthesis. What are they called?
    They use light energy to combine water and carbon dioxide, forming glucose
    Photograph courtesy of Martin Bahmann at Wikimedia Commons
  3. Chlostridium botulinum are dangerous and produce a toxin which can be fatal. Which type of cell are they?
    The waste products from bacteria can be toxic
  4. Plant cells are shown in this picture. What are the pale blue structures?
    All plant cells have cell walls as well as cell membranes
    Photograph courtesy of Kristian Peters at Wikimedia Commons
  5. This is a picture of animal cells. Mitochondria are found in all plant and animal cells. What do mitochondria provide?
    Mitochondria provide energy so that the cell can do useful work
  6. Which of these structures are located in all plant and animal cells and contain DNA?
    Chromosomes can be seen most clearly during cell division
  7. This is a diagram of an animal cell. Which of the following is not found in an animal cell?
    Cell walls are formed from cellulose and give plant cells both strength and shape
  8. This is Spirogyra which is a type of alga found in ponds. What are the green structures within the cytoplasm?
    Spirogyra is therefore a producer - it manufactures its own food
    Photograph courtesy of Frederic.marbach at Wikimedia Commons
  9. This is an image of a nucleus. What is the name of the chemical found inside the nucleus which contains the genetic code?
    DNA stands for Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid
  10. At fertilisation, a sperm cell fuses with an egg cell. Which of these structures is never found in sperm or egg cells?
    These are a feature of plant cells - although they do occasionally occur in animal cells
    Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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