Plant and Animal Cell Structure and Function

Plant and Animal Cell Structure and Function

Plant and Animal Cell Structure

Both plant and animal cells contain various structures that allow them to function. They both share common cell components, but also have structures unique to them.

Common Structures in Both Cells

  • Cell membrane: A thin, flexible barrier around the cell that controls which substances can get in or out.
  • Cytoplasm: Jelly-like substance where most of the cell’s activities occur.
  • Nucleus: Holds the cell’s genetic material, DNA, and controls the cell’s activities.
  • Mitochondria: The powerplant of the cell; where energy is produced through the process of respiration.
  • Ribosomes: Where protein synthesis occurs.

Unique Structures in Animal Cells

  • Lysosomes: Sacs filled with enzymes that can break down waste and unwanted material in the cell.
  • Centrioles: Help to organise the assembly and disassembly of microtubules during cell division.

Unique Structures in Plant Cells

  • Cell wall: Provides extra support and shape to the plant cell, made of cellulose.
  • Chloroplasts: Where photosynthesis occurs to make food for the plant cell. They contain a pigment called chlorophyll which captures sunlight.
  • Vacuole: A large storage sac that can contain water, food, or waste products; it helps maintain the rigidity of the plant cell.

Function of Cells

Each cell component has a specific function that allows the cell to function effectively and efficiently.

Cell Membrane

  • Controls the movement of substances in and out of the cell. It also protects the interior of the cell from the outside environment.


  • Site for many metabolic reactions. It also provides the medium for the organelles to remain suspended.


  • Controls and regulates the activities of the cell (e.g., growth and metabolism) and carries the genes.


  • Produces cell’s energy through the process of respiration.


  • Proteins are made here through a process called protein synthesis.

Lysosomes (Animal Cells)

  • They break down and digest unneeded cellular components, such as a damaged organelle.

Centrioles (Animal Cells)

  • Involved in cell division and the formation of the spindle fibres that separate the chromosomes during cell division.

Cell Wall (Plant Cells)

  • Provides and maintains the shape of these cells and serves as a protective barrier. Furthermore, it allows water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and certain other substances to pass in and out of the cell.

Chloroplasts (Plant Cells)

  • Involved in photosynthesis, where energy in sunlight is converted into chemical energy in the form of glucose.

Vacuole (Plant Cells)

  • Helps maintain the correct pressure within the plant cells to provide structure and support for the growing plant. The vacuole also stores nutrients and can break down waste products.

Understanding these structures and their functions in animal and plant cells is fundamental to understanding the principles of biology.