Animals and plants are two types of organisms with separate abilities. For example, plants can make their own food while animals depend on plants or other animals for food. Meanwhile, animals have a highly developed sensory system, unlike plants. However, although plants and animals differ in important biological aspects, their cells are alike in many ways.
The cytoplasm is a clear, jelly-like material that basically fills both plant and animal cells and is 80 percent water. The cytoplasm of animal and plant cells suspends several organelles and is responsible for a cell’s movement and shape. This material actually helps to dissolve wastes and also features dissolved nutrients. In addition, the cytoplasm is a strong conductor of electricity because of the several salts it possesses, which allow the cell’s mechanics to work efficiently.
Because both plant and animal cells are eukaryotic, they have a proper nucleus, which is enclosed in a double membrane. The nucleus contains chromosomes that carry DNA -- the genetic code that gives the cell its unique characteristics and coordinates protein synthesis. The chromosomes remain separated from the cell’s cytoplasm by a nuclear envelope, which has two membranes joined in a way that they feature circular openings called nuclear pores. Through the nuclear pores, RNA molecules and proteins that modulate DNA expression move from the nucleus to the fluid portion of the cytoplasm. Also, RNA molecules and the components of ribosomes, which make proteins from amino acids, are assembled in the nucleolus, a region of the nucleus.
All animal and plant cells have a plasma cell membrane that surrounds them. Membranes are composed of a double layer of phospholipids, which are made up mostly of fatty acids, and embedded proteins. The cell membrane is very thin but is critical to the function of a cell because it controls everything that enters and leaves the cell -- a list that includes water, waste and nutrients. The membrane essentially protects the cell from the outside environment.
In the cytoplasm of both animal and plant cells are membrane-bound organelles known as mitochondria. Mitochondria in an animal cell are responsible for producing most of the cell’s energy from food. Mitochondria are the power centers of the cell, as they provide the energy required to produce secretory products, divide, contract and move. Mitochondria actually are similar to plant chloroplasts in that both organelles produce the metabolites and energy the cell needs. Although plant cells do contain mitochondria, plant cells primarily rely on chloroplasts, so mitochondria are not as much of a power center in plants. Mitochondria are the second largest cell organelles in animal cells and the third largest ones in plant cells.
Other structures in the cytoplasm that are found in both plant and animal cells include the endoplasmic reticulum, golgi apparatus, lysosomes, peroxisomes, ribosomes, endosomes and the cytoskeleton. The granular endoplasmic reticulum packages proteins for the golgi apparatus, which is a membranous sac that modifies and sorts proteins into secretory vesicles -- sacs that contain materials to be excreted from the cell.
Lysosomes are important for breaking down bacteria and cell debris. Peroxisomes in an animal cell protect the cell from its own production of toxic hydrogen peroxide and in a plant cell convert fatty acids to sugar. Meanwhile, ribosomes are packets of protein and RNA that serve as a site for protein synthesis -- the process in which cells build proteins -- and endosomes are membrane-bound structures that direct vesicular traffic. The cytoskeleton in animal cells produce cell movements and in plant cells maintain structures within the cells.
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