Animal cells are eukaryotic cells, or cells with a membrane-bound nucleus. Unlike prokaryotic cells, DNA in animal cells is housed within the nucleus. In addition to having a nucleus, animal cells also contain other membrane-bound organelles, or tiny cellular structures, that carry out specific functions necessary for normal cellular operation. Organelles have a wide range of responsibilities that include everything from producing hormones and enzymes to providing energy for animal cells.

Animal Cells: Structures and Organelles

The following are examples of structures and organelles that can be found in typical animal cells:
  • Centrioles - organize the assembly of microtubules during cell division.
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What are centrioles?

Centrioles are cylindrical structures that are composed of groupings of microtubules arranged in a 9 + 3 pattern. The pattern is so named because a ring of nine microtubule "triplets" are arranged at right angles to one another. Centrioles are found in animal cells and play a role in cell division. Centrioles replicate in interphase stage of mitosis and they help to organize the assembly of microtubules during cell division. Centrioles called "basal bodies" form cilia and flagella.

  • Cytoplasm - gel-like substance within the cell.
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Definition: The cytoplasm consists of all of the contents outside of the nucleus and enclosed within the cell membrane of a cell. This includes the cytosol and in euckaryotic cells, organelles such as mitochondria and ribosomes. Also located within the cytoplasm is the cytoskeleton, a network of fibers that help the cell maintain its shape and give it support.

The cytoplasm is clear in color and has a gel-like appearance. It is composed mainly of water and also contains enzymes, salts, organelles, and various organic molecules. The cytoplasm helps to move materials around the cell and also dissolves cellular waste.

  • Endoplasmic Reticulum - extensive network of membranes composed of both regions with ribosomes (rough ER) and regions without ribosomes (smooth ER).

  • Golgi Complex - responsible for manufacturing, storing and shipping certain cellular products.

  • Lysosomes - sacs of enzymes that digest cellular macromolecules such as nucleic acids.

  • Microtubules - hollow rods that function primarily to help support and shape the cell.

  • Mitochondria - power producers and the sites of cellular respiration.

  • Nucleus - membrane bound structure that contains the cell's hereditary information.
    • Nucleolus - structure within the nucleus that helps in the synthesis of ribosomes.

    • Nucleopore - tiny hole within the nuclear membrane that allows nucleic acids and proteins to move into and out of the nucleus.
  • Ribosomes - consisting of RNA and proteins, ribosomes are responsible for protein assembly.

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