Compare and Contrast Eukaryotic and Prokaryotic Cells

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Compare and Contrast Eukaryotic and Prokaryotic Cells

There are two types of cells which make up all living organisms – prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. There are significant differences between the two types of cells, as well as several similarities. Prokaryotic cells tend to be smaller with no membrane bound organelles, whereas eukaryotic cells are more complex.


Prokaryotic cells make up the Prokaryote kingdom – single-celled organisms which are usually heterotrophs (obtain energy by breaking down large complex organisms from external sources) such as E. coli but sometimes autotrophs (use energy from sources such as sunlight to convert inorganic molecules into complex organic ones) such as cyanobacteria. In contrast, eukaryotic cells make up several different kingdoms – the Protoctista, Fungi, Plantae and Animalia. They also come in both autotrophic and heterotrophic forms.

Key similarities

Both types of cell have a plasma membrane, cytoplasm, ribosomes (although those of prokaryotes are smaller) and DNA or RNA.

Cell wall

Prokaryotic cells have a cell wall made of murein (peptidoglycan) whereas eukaryotic cells, if they have a cell wall, have one made of cellulose. Prokaryotic cells may also have a slimy capsule around the cell for protection.

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Genetic material

Another major difference between the two types of cell is that prokaryotic cells do not have a nucleus or other membrane bound organelles whereas eukaryotic cells do – instead the genetic material of prokaryotes (a single plasmid as opposed to several chromosomes) is in a region of the nucleus called the nucleoid. The genetic material in eukaryotic cells is associated with the histone protein, whereas that of prokaryotic cells is folded around several different proteins including the HU protein. Eukaryotic cells replicate by mitosis and meiosis, whereas prokaryotic cells undergo binary fission. Prokaryotic chromosomes tend to only have ...

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