Eukaryotic cell: discover what it is, its main characteristics and its types

Despite its great diversity, each type of cell It has very well defined features and functions. In this sense, those of greatest interest are usually the eukaryotic cells and prokaryotes, but this time we will get to know the former in detail.

Discover in this note what a eukaryotic cell, what are its main characteristics and what types are there.

What is a eukaryotic cell?

It is a kind of cell which is fundamental in the creation of every living being that inhabits the planet. Unlike the prokaryotic cell, the eukaryote has a nucleus inside the cytoplasm. This nucleus has the capacity to store DNA or genetic material, something that does not happen in the case of prokaryotes. In the latter, the DNA is completely scattered within the cytoplasm.

Regarding the origin of the term “eukaryota”, it comes from the Greek word “eukaryota”. This is the union of “eu” which means “true” and “karyon” which means “kernel or nut”. The word is used to identify those cells that have a true nucleus, in other words, a nucleus that is distinguished between the cellular content.

It should be noted that the discovery of the eukaryotic cell it was of vital importance for the study of evolutionary cycles. Since it meant the construction of the necessary bases for the investigation of a more extensive biological diversity. This includes the appearance of cells classified as multicellular, thus giving rise to what is known as higher kingdoms. In this kingdom are found, animals, plants, fungi and protists. Every living being developed from eukaryotic cells is known as eukaryote.

Being living beings, these cells can carry out various functions like any other living being. That is, a eukaryotic cell it has the ability to feed, reproduce, develop and can even process a certain amount of information. Furthermore, eukaryotic cells can respond to certain stimuli, both internal and external.

Cells are also known to be the tiniest basic units that every living thing possesses. However, this type of cell it has more complex features and functions that we will get to know below.

Main characteristics of a eukaryotic cell

To put it more simply, the eukaryotic cell it is like a totally tiny living being. These types of cells are microscopic, which means that due to their size it is only possible to appreciate them through specific devices. So seeing them with the naked eye would be practically impossible.

The eukaryotic cell It is formed from a membrane that serves as a medium of exchange between certain substances. This action is carried out on the inside of the cell and also, in the extracellular environment. In addition, these cells can measure a maximum of 100 microns depending on the organism to which the cell belongs. cell.

The interior of these cells normally contains various structures made up of membranes. These create several impenetrable compartments that serve to protect the vital unit from any danger. In addition, within these compartments different chemical processes are carried out that give life to this small vital unit.

Absolutely all the characteristics that this type of cell possesses is determined according to the information that is stored in its DNA. This is also known as deoxyribonucleic acid and it is protected within the nucleus. Eukaryotic cells require energy to carry out each of their functions, so they absorb nutrients from around them.

When found within multicellular organisms, these cells are capable of interacting with each other. This with the aim of creating more tissues that allow them to associate while exchanging information and nutrients. Another of its characteristics is that some eukaryotes have freedom of movement and others do not move.

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What are the parts of a eukaryotic cell?

These cells are made up of different elements that go from the outside to the inside. Some of the most important parts of eukaryotic cells are the following:

Plasma or cell membrane

It is a kind of double barrier that is mainly made up of proteins and lipids. This is responsible for drawing boundaries to keep the cell protected from everything around it. However, said membrane allows access only of necessary substances.

Cellular wall

Rigidly organized, it is found on the outside of the cell membrane, giving it protection and shape. However, only plant and fungal cells have a cell wall composed of cellulose and chitin respectively.


It is the substance that contains a large part of the cell’s organelles, which fulfill various functions of both the cell and the nucleus. It is made up of two components that are:

Cytosol: It is an aqueous segment that does not contain organelles, this in turn stores diluted substances.

Cytoskeleton: It is a kind of network of filaments that serve to give eukaryotic cells their shape.


Made up of RNA, ribosomes are structures that are submerged within the cytoplasm and their main function is to synthesize proteins. Sometimes they stick to the rough endoplasmic reticulum.


It is the most characteristic part of this type of cell, where DNA or genetic material is stored. It is limited by a cell membrane that keeps it away from the cytoplasm and has a nucleolus in charge of creating ribosomes.


The organelles are diverse compartments separated by membranes, they have multiple functions. These include cellular respiration and also the degradation of certain substances.

Endoplasmic reticulum

Its function is to synthesize lipids and proteins that will later be taken to the outside. The endoplasmic reticulum is divided into two parts, smooth and rough, the latter being the one that stores ribosomes.


Membranous double component where the cellular respiration process takes place. This process is essential to collect all the energy caused by glucose.

Golgi apparatus

Their function is to transform and then package the proteins or biomolecules for their subsequent secretion. It is made up of several flattened sacs and discs known as cisterns.


They are present only in animal cells, their most important function is to digest various molecules. Lysosomes contain their own enzymes that serve to assimilate lipids, proteins, and even carbohydrates.


They are responsible for the transport and storage of specific substances, sometimes they can also degrade these substances.


A very important part of plant-type cells, vacuoles are a kind of relatively large vesicle. Among its functions, it is to store various nutrients such as mineral salts and water. In addition, it serves as a support for this small cell unit and helps it maintain its optimal shape.


They are a species of plastids that are part of plant cells and normally have a double membrane. They usually play an important role during the photosynthesis process.


Only found in animal-type cells, these components are tube-shaped. They are essential at the time of cell separation, a necessary process for chromosome division.

How many types of eukaryotic cells are there?

Although the existence of a great variety of eukaryotic cells is known, the most important are only four. These have specific characteristics and at the same time, they fulfill certain functions.

Vegetable eukaryote

This type of cells has a particular characteristic and that is that it has a cell wall, it adopts a geometric shape. This wall surrounds the plasma membrane and, in turn, provides firmness, protection and rigidity to the cell. Another of their characteristics is that they contain chloroplasts and organelles, components necessary for photosynthesis.

Likewise, these cells are characterized by having a wide central vacuole, lime serves to prevent molecules from moving uncontrollably within the cytoplasm. In addition, this component is essential to maintain its cellular shape.

Animal eukaryote

The animal eukaryotic cellUnlike the plant, it lacks chloroplasts because they do not need to carry out photosynthesis. In the same way, they do not have a cell wall, however, if they have centrioles and their vacuoles, despite being smaller, they are also more numerous.

Lacking a cell wall, the animal eukaryotic cell it has the ability to take different forms. In addition, this type of cell is unable to produce its own nutrients, so it must feed through other organisms.


Also known as fungi, these are those that are responsible for creating any of the organisms that are part of the Fungi kingdom. They have a cell wall like plant cells, however, it is made of chitin instead of cellulose.

They do not have plastids or chloroplasts as in the case of plants, however, they do have organelles. The latter are very common in animal eukaryotic cell, so it is a similar feature.


They are organisms made up of a single cell instead of several, as is usually the case. The structure of this type of cells is complex, since they have to carry out practically all the functions of the same organism. Their size is macroscopic, so they are even smaller than the animal eukaryotic cells and vegetables.

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Sources: encyclopediabiologica, lifeder, characteristics.