GCSE level School Biology Notes: Introduction to plant and animal cells their structure and function

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INDEX of notes on introducing plant, animal and bacteria types of cell structure and the function of their components

including sub-cellular structures and differences between plant, animal and bacterial cells and unicellular organisms

Doc Brown's biology exam revision study notes

 What features do animal cells and plant cells have in common?   

In what way do plant cells differ from animal cells?   

Can you correctly draw and label an animal cell and a plant cell? 

What are subcellular structures? What is their function in cells?


Sub-index for this page on different types of cell structure and organisms

(1) What defines life? What are the characteristics of a living organism?

(2) Introduction to cells - types of cells - prokaryotes and eukaryotes

(3) Typical characteristics of animal cells including humans! (eukaryotes, eukaryota)

(4) Structure of a typical plant and algal cells (eukaryotes, eukaryota)

(5) Structure of a typical bacteria cell (prokaryotes - prokaryotic cells, prokaryota)

(6) Structure of fungal and yeast cells (eukaryotes)

(7) A note on the structure of viruses (NOT classified as living organisms)

(8) The scale of things, orders of magnitude and the chemical composition of a unicellular organism

(9) Some more examples of unicellular organisms (amoeba dinoflagellate euglena)

See also CELL SPECIALISMS - an introduction to cell specialisation is on another page

and Microscopy and cells: the development and use of microscopes in biology - optical and electron

and Cell division - cell cycle - mitosis, meiosis, sexual/asexual reproduction, binary fission, cancer cells 


Some typical learning objectives for these pages on cell structure and function

Know the differences between eukaryotes and prokaryotes : 

Know that plant and animal cells (eukaryotic cells) have a cell membrane, cytoplasm and genetic material enclosed in a nucleus.

Know that bacterial cells (prokaryotic cells) are much smaller and simpler in comparison. They have cytoplasm and a cell membrane surrounded by a cell wall. The genetic material is not enclosed in a nucleus. It is a single DNA loop and there may be one or more small rings of DNA called plasmids.

Know the similarities and differences between animal, plant and bacterial cells.

You should be able to explain how the main sub-cellular structures, including the nucleus, cell membranes, mitochondria, chloroplasts in plant cells and plasmids in bacterial cells are related to their functions.

Know that most animal cells have the following parts: a nucleus, which controls the activities of the cell, cytoplasm, in which most of the chemical reactions take place, a cell membrane, which controls the passage of substances into and out of the cell, mitochondria, which is where aerobic respiration takes place, ribosomes, which are where protein synthesis occurs.

Be able to recognise, draw and interpret images of cells.

Know the parts found in animal cells (listed above)

Know that plant cells often have: chloroplasts, which absorb light to make food by photosynthesis a permanent vacuole filled with cell sap.

Know that plant and algal cells have a more rigid cell wall made of cellulose, which strengthens the cell.

The diagram above illustrates some of the basic features to recognise, without the key below!

More detailed diagrams of typical animal cells and plants cells are in sections (b) and (c).

L = mitochondria, N = chloroplasts, O = cilia hairs, P = cell wall, R = cell membrane, T = vacuole, W = nucleus, Z = cytoplasm

Cell 1: Ciliated cell - mucous membrane cell with cilia hairs to move mucous along, found in nose, throat, stomach and lungs.

Cell 2: Plant cell - nucleus, chloroplasts, cell membrane, cell wall, large vacuole, nucleus, mitochondria

Cell 3: Red blood cell - has no nucleus, but important carrier of oxygen for respiration in all cells with mitochondria.

Cell 4: Non-specific cell - just showing cytoplasm, cell membrane, nucleus and mitochondria.

Cell 5: Sperm cell - showing swimming tail and nucleus.

Cell 6: Plant root hair cell - cytoplasm, nucleus, mitochondria, cell wall, cell membrane, (NO chloroplasts!)


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General CELL BIOLOGY and GENETICS revision notes index

Introduction to plant and animal cell structure and function - comparison of subcellular structures

Stem cells and medical uses, and introduction to cell differentiation and specialisation

Cell division - cell cycle - mitosis, meiosis, sexual/asexual reproduction, binary fission

Microscopy - the development and use of microscopes in biology - optical and electron

Diffusion - including demonstration, factors & Fick's Law, osmosis investigation and active transport

Examples of surfaces for the exchange of substances in animal organisms

Respiration - aerobic/anaerobic in plants, fungi & animals, substrates/products, experimental investigations

Enzymes - structure, functions, optimum conditions, investigation experiments, digestion  (gcse biology notes)

See also Enzymes and Biotechnology (gcse chemistry notes)

Culturing microorganisms like bacteria - testing antibiotics and antiseptics

DNA and RNA structure and Protein Synthesis

An introduction to genetic variation and the formation and consequence of mutations

Introduction to the inheritance of characteristics and genetic diagrams (including Punnett squares)  including technical terms, Mendel's work and inherited genetic disorder, genetic testing

The human GENOME project - gene expression, chromosomes, alleles, genotype, phenotype, variations, uses of genetic testing including 'pros and cons'

Inherited characteristics and human sexual reproduction, genetic fingerprinting and its uses

Genetic engineering: uses - making insulin, medical applications, GM crops & food security

More complicated genetics: Sex-linked genetic disorders, inheritance of blood groups

See also section on Cloning - tissue culture of plants and animals


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