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Chapter 3 – Cell: Structure and Function

The following Topics and Sub-Topics are covered in this chapter and are available on MSVgo:


Cell is also referred to as the building block of life and lets discuss cell and its structure and function. We all know that every living organism comprises cells- either a single cell or an array of complex cell assembly. A cell is considered a small unit capable of carrying out various life activities independently. 

You might be interested to know how a microscopic structure can work as a fully functional unit and sustain itself. Not only do cells sustain their own life, but they are also capable of reproducing and giving rise to more cells. So, now do you understand how the entire ensemble of life on Earth is concentrated on the essence of cells. 

At the end of the following notes, you shall have a transparent and fair idea regarding:- 

  • What is a Cell?
  • Characteristics of cells
  • Discovery of cells
  • Cell Theory
  • Cell: Structure and Function
  • Different cell types

It is the smallest fundamental unit that makes up a living organism. A cell can carry out necessary life activities, including replication. Replication of one cell gives rise to a new cell of a similar type. This is also called cell division. 

Every living organism is composed of cells. On the basis of the number of cells that make up the organisms, they can be of two types – Unicellular (if made of single-cell) and multicellular (if made of multiple cells). Every cell has an extremely complex structure and function.

The microscopic study of the cell structure reveals a cell membrane enclosing a mass of cytoplasm (the mass of fluid that occupies the majority of the cell) and a nucleus (it contains the hereditary material). The nucleus is the chief regulatory centre of the cell. There are various organelles within the cells, each recruited for a specialized function. All the cell organelles work together as a unit to discharge the complete activities of the cell. 

To date, the smallest known cell: structure and function are Mycoplasma. The first biologist who discovered cells was Robert Hooke.

Lets see how a cell provides structural support and stability to any living organism.

  • The external membrane that separates a cell from the rest of the world. The plasma membrane is the outermost membrane for animal cells, whereas plant cells have an additional exterior most membrane known as the cell wall
  • Cytoplasm (fluid in nature) that forms the mass of the cell
  • Cell organelles (they are bounded individually by membranes)
  • Nucleus (the primary regulatory center of the cell which encodes the genetic information of the organism).

There are a plethora of cell organelles within each cell. The chief organelles are:- 

  • Mitochondria also are known as the powerhouse of the cell because it generates the energy (in the form of ATP) required to carry out the cellular functions
  • Lysosomes perform the housekeeping function within the cell by digesting unwanted organelles, dead counterparts within the cell.
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum is synthetic and concerns the synthesis, processing, and sorting of various biomolecules vital for the cell’s functioning. They can be of two types – smooth endoplasmic reticulum with no attached ribosomes on its surface and rough endoplasmic reticulum with ribosomes on the surface.
  • There are various other organelles within the cell, such as Golgi Apparatus, Ribosomes, Centrosomes, Vacuoles, Cytoskeletal elements, Peroxisomes. Specific organelles like plastids and chloroplasts are found only in the plant cells.

Did you know that the discovery of cells is the single most crucial fundamental event in Biology that has revolutionized the life sciences concept? In 1665, Robert Hooke first noticed a bottle cork under a compound microscope and addressed each cork unit as cells because they resembled tiny rooms. However, he could not provide any further insight into the cells’ structural complexity and attributed cells as non-living entities. 

Anton Van Leeuwenhoek observed cells under compound microscopes and attributed them as living entities. He addressed these units as animalcules.

Later in the year 1893, Robert Brown proposed a detailed structure of cells and highlighted the nucleus presence in cells.

The first proposed cell theory was proposed by three eminent scientists – Theodor Schwann, Matthias Schleiden, and Rudolf Virchow. Following are the postulates of cell theory:- 

  • A cell is the fundamental unit of life
  • All living species are composed of cells
  • All cells arise from pre-existing cells

Later on, the following postulates were added to the existing cell theory:- 

  • Genetic or hereditary information is also passed from one cell to the other cells of the subsequent generation.
  • Energy flow occurs within each cell.
  • All cells exhibit similar chemical composition.

Cells are fundamental of two types:- 

Prokaryotic cells (primitive cells)

They have the following characteristics:

  1. They lack a nucleus and exhibit a dense region of nuclear material aggregation termed a nucleoid.
  2. The genetic material of prokaryotic cells can be either DNA or RNA
  3. Single-celled microbes like bacteria, archaea, and blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) are the prokaryotes.
  4. The diameter of prokaryotic cells lies in the range of 0.1 -0.5 micrometres.


Eukaryotic Cells (modern cells)

They have the following characteristics:- 

  1. They have a true nucleus enclosed by a nuclear membrane
  2. They follow both sexual and asexual modes of reproduction
  3. The diameter of eukaryotic cells lie in the range of 10-100 micrometres
  4. Fungi, Protozoa, Plants, and Animals have eukaryotic cells hence called eukaryotes

There are various types of cells depending on their location and structure like Epithelial cells, bone cells (osteoblasts), nephrons of kidney cells, Myocytes or muscle cells, cardiocytes or heart cells, etc.

Following are the essential functions of the cells

  • To provide structural support to every living organism
  • Produce energy
  • Act as the central pillar of growth of an organism
  • Form the basic unit of reproduction
  • Help in the transportation of various substances needed to sustain life
  1. What is the structure of a cell?
    A cell’s structure can be explained as a mass of cytoplasm enclosed by a cell membrane. The cytoplasm has several organelles embedded in it, each of which has a membranous covering of their own. The membrane-bound organelles form the endomembrane system of the cell. In the cytoplasm, a nucleus is present that acts as the brain of the cell.
  2. What are the functions of a cell?
    The three primary functions of cell are:-

    • Provide structural support
    • Help in the growth of an organism
    • Divide and produce new cells 
  3. What are the four-cell structures?
    Four major cell structures are:-

    • Plasma or Cell membrane
    • Cytoplasm
    • Nucleus
    • Cell organelles
  4. Who discovered the cell?
    Robert Hooke discovered the cell in 1665.

MSVgo is an app that helps students, teachers, and parents understand various scientific domains’ core concepts. Learning is a continuous sustained process that is facilitated only by a clear understanding of concepts and theories. The way cell structure and function has been explained is engaging and easily understandable. MSVgo aims to create an ideal resource bank for any student looking out to understand concepts, formulas, and theories to grasp content. If you have not checked out our video library, check them out to better understand sustainable learning.

High School Physics

  • Alternating Current
  • Atoms
  • Communication Systems
  • Current Electricity
  • Dual nature of Radiation and Matter
  • Electric Charges and Fields
  • Electricity
  • Electromagnetic Induction
  • Electromagnetic Waves
  • Electron Beams and Radioactivity
  • Electrons and Photons
  • Electrostatic Potential and Capacitance
  • Fluid Pressure
  • Force and Acceleration
  • Force And Laws Of Motion
  • Gravitation
  • Internal Energy
  • Kinetic Theory
  • Law of motion
  • Light – Reflection And Refraction
  • Magnetic Effects Of Electric Current
  • Magnetism and Matter
  • Management Of Natural Resources
  • Mechanical properties of Fluids
  • Mechanical properties of Solids
  • Motion
  • Motion in a plane
  • Motion in a straight line
  • Moving Charges and Magnetism
  • Nuclear Energy
  • Nuclei
  • Oscillations
  • Our Environment
  • Paths of Heat
  • Physical world
  • Ray optics and optical instruments
  • Semiconductor Devices
  • Semiconductor Electronics: Materials, Devices and Simple Circuits
  • Simple Machines
  • Sound
  • Sources Of Energy
  • Specific and Latent Heats
  • Spherical Mirrors
  • Static Electricity
  • Systems of Particles and Rotational motion
  • Thermal properties of matter
  • Thermodynamics
  • Units and Measurement
  • Vectors, Scalar Quantities and Elementary Calculus
  • Wave Optics
  • Waves
  • Work, Power and Energy

High School Chemistry

  • Acids, Bases and Salts
  • Alcohols, Phenols and Ethers
  • Aldehydes, Ketones and Carboxylic Acids
  • Aliphatic and Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Alkyl and Aryl Halides
  • Amines
  • Analytical Chemistry 
  • Atomic Structure
  • Atoms And Molecules
  • Basic concepts of Chemistry
  • Biomolecules
  • Carbon And Its Compounds
  • Carboxylic acids and Acid Derivatives
  • Chemical Bonding and Molecular Structures
  • Chemical Energetics
  • Chemical Equilibria
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  • Chemical Reactions And Equations
  • Chemical Reactions and Their Mechanisms
  • Chemistry in Everyday Life
  • Chemistry of p-Block elements
  • Chemistry of Transition and Inner Transition
  • Classification of Elements
  • Coordination Compounds
  • Cyanide, Isocyanide, Nitro compounds and Amines
  • Electrochemistry
  • Electrolysis
  • Elements, Compounds and Mixtures
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  • Equilibrium
  • Ethers and Carbonyl compounds
  • Haloalkanes and Haloarenes
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Hydrogen
  • Ideal solutions
  • Introduction to Organic Chemistry
  • Ionic equilibria
  • Matter
  • Matter Around Us
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  • Metallurgy
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  • Natural Resources
  • Organic Chemistry – Basic Principles
  • Periodic Classification of Elements
  • Physical and Chemical Changes
  • Physical and Chemical Properties of Water
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  • Preparation, Properties and Uses of Compounds
  • Principles and Processes of Isolation of Elements
  • Redox Reactions
  • Relative Molecular Mass and Mole
  • States of Matter
  • Structure Of The Atom
  • Study of Compounds
  • Study of Gas Laws
  • Study of Representative Elements
  • Surface Chemistry
  • The d-block and f-block elements
  • The Gaseous State
  • The p-Block Elements
  • The Periodic Table
  • The s-Block Elements
  • The Solid State
  • Thermodynamics

High School Biology

  • Absorption and Movement of Water in Plants
  • Adolescent Issues
  • Anatomy of Flowering Plants
  • Animal Kingdom
  • Bacteria and Fungi-Friends and Foe
  • Biodiversity and Conservation
  • Biofertilizers
  • Biological Classification
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomolecules
  • Biotechnology and its Applications
  • Biotic Community
  • Body Fluids and Circulation
  • Breathing and Exchange of Gases
  • Cell – Unit of Life
  • Cell Cycle and Cell Division
  • Cell Division and Structure of Chromosomes
  • Cell Reproduction
  • Cellular Respiration
  • Chemical Coordination and Integration
  • Circulation
  • Control And Coordination
  • Crop Improvement
  • Digestion and Absorption
  • Diversity In Living Organisms
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Issues
  • Excretory Products and their Elimination
  • Flowering Plants
  • Genes and Chromosomes
  • Health and Diseases
  • Health and Its Significance
  • Heredity And Evolution
  • Heredity and Variation
  • How Do Organisms Reproduce?
  • Human Diseases
  • Human Eye And Colourful World
  • Human Health and Disease
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  • Hygiene
  • Improvement In Food Resources
  • Integumentary System- Skin
  • Kingdom Fungi
  • Kingdom Monera
  • Kingdom Protista
  • Life Processes
  • Locomotion and Movement
  • Microbes in Human Welfare
  • Mineral Nutrition
  • Molecular Basis of Inheritance
  • Morphology of Flowering Plants
  • Neural Control And Coordination
  • Nutrition in Human Beings
  • Organism and Population
  • Photosynthesis
  • Photosynthesis in Higher Plants
  • Plant Growth and Development
  • Plant Kingdom
  • Pollination and Fertilization
  • Pollution; Sources and its effects
  • Principles of Inheritance and Variation
  • Reproduction and Development in Angiosperms
  • Reproduction in Organisms
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  • Respiration in Human Beings
  • Respiration in Plants
  • Respiratory System
  • Sexual Reproduction in Flowering Plants
  • Strategies for Enhancement in Food Production
  • Structural Organisation in Animals
  • Structural Organisation of the Cell
  • The Endocrine System
  • The Fundamental Unit Of Life
  • The Living World
  • The Nervous System and Sense Organs
  • Tissues
  • Transpiration
  • Transport in Plants

High School Math

  • Algebra – Arithmatic Progressions
  • Algebra – Complex Numbers and Quadratic Equations
  • Algebra – Linear Inequalities
  • Algebra – Pair of Linear Equations in Two Variables
  • Algebra – Polynomials
  • Algebra – Principle of Mathematical Induction
  • Algebra – Quadratic Equations
  • Binomial Theorem
  • Calculus – Applications of Derivatives
  • Calculus – Applications of the Integrals
  • Calculus – Continuity and Differentiability
  • Calculus – Differential Equations
  • Calculus – Integrals
  • Geometry – Area
  • Geometry – Circles
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  • Geometry – Constructions
  • Geometry – Introduction to Euclid’s Geometry
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  • Geometry – Lines and Angles
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  • Linear Programming
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  • Mensuration – Areas
  • Mensuration – Surface Areas and Volumes
  • Number Systems
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  • Permutations and Combinations
  • Probability
  • Sequence and Series
  • Sets and Functions
  • Statistics 
  • Trignometry – Height and Distance
  • Trignometry – Identities
  • Trignometry – Introduction

Middle School Science

  • Acids, Bases And Salts
  • Air and Its Constituents
  • Basic Biology
  • Body Movements
  • Carbon and Its Compounds
  • Cell – Structure And Functions
  • Changes Around Us
  • Chemical Effects Of Electric Current
  • Chemistry in Your Life
  • Coal And Petroleum
  • Combustion And Flame
  • Components Of Food
  • Conservation Of Plants And Animals
  • Crop Production And Management
  • Electric Current And Its Effects
  • Electricity And Circuits
  • Elements and Compounds
  • Fibre To Fabric
  • Food production and management
  • Force And Pressure
  • Forests: Our Lifeline
  • Friction
  • Fun With Magnets
  • Garbage In, Garbage Out
  • Getting To Know Plants
  • Health and Hygiene
  • Heat
  • Hydrogen
  • Life Processes: Nutrition in Animals and Plants
  • Light, Shadows And Reflections
  • Materials: Metals And Non-Metals
  • Matter and Its States
  • Metals and Non-metals
  • Micro Organisms: Friend And Foe
  • Motion And Measurement Of Distances
  • Motion And Time
  • Nutrition In Animals
  • Nutrition In Plants
  • Organization in Living Things
  • Our Environment
  • Physical And Chemical Changes
  • Pollution and conservation
  • Pollution Of Air And Water
  • Reaching The Age Of Adolescence
  • Reproduction In Animals
  • Reproduction In Plants
  • Respiration In Organisms
  • Rocks and Minerals
  • Separation Of Substances
  • Simple Machines
  • Soil
  • Some Natural Phenomena
  • Sorting Materials Into Groups
  • Sound
  • Stars And The Solar System
  • Structure of Atom
  • Synthetic Fibers And Plastics
  • The Living Organisms And Their Surroundings
  • Transfer of Heat
  • Transformation of Substances
  • Transportation In Animals And Plants
  • Universe
  • Waste-water Story
  • Water: A Precious Resource
  • Weather, Climate And Adaptations Of Animals To Climate
  • Winds, Storms And Cyclones

Middle School Math

  • Addition
  • Area and Its Boundary
  • Boxes and Sketches
  • Data Handling
  • Fun With Numbers
  • Heavy and Light
  • How Many
  • Long And Short
  • Mapping
  • Measurement
  • Money
  • Multiplication and Factors
  • Multiply and Divide
  • Numbers
  • Parts and Wholes
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Patterns
  • Play With Patterns
  • Rupees And Paise
  • Shapes And Angles
  • Shapes And Designs
  • Shapes and Space
  • Similarity
  • Smart Charts
  • Squares
  • Subtraction
  • Tables And Shares
  • Tenths and Hundredths
  • Time
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