8 Characteristics animal cell

All animals are multicellular organisms and their basic unit is the eukaryotic cell. It differs from the prokaryotic cell, typical of the organisms of the Monera kingdom, mainly by the presence of a differentiated nucleus surrounded by a nuclear membrane. Eukaryotic cells also have the ability to form multicellular organisms and coexist with different types of cells specialized in specific functions within complex living beings.

If you want to learn much more about the cells that make up the basis of the living beings of the kingdom Animalia , continue reading this summary on the parts of the animal cell and their functions.

What is the animal cell

The animal cell is the base cell in living beings that are part of the kingdom Animalia , that is, animals. There are different types or specializations, depending on the functions they must perform in each part of the body. Examples of animal cells with diverse shapes and functions are neurons in the nervous system, leukocytes in the immune system, and eggs and sperm in the reproductive system, among many others. For example, a human being has more than 200 different types of cells.

Animal cells are distinguished from plant cells by having a smaller diameter and by not having a cell wall and chloroplasts. The shapes, sizes and functions of animal cells are very varied but, in general and as we have indicated, they have a smaller diameter than plant cells. Many are specialized to perform a specific function: detect and communicate sensations, create support tissues, etc.

Characteristics animal cell

Animal cells have several characteristics that distinguish them from other types of cells. Here are some key characteristics of animal cells:

  1. Plasma Membrane: Animal cells have a plasma membrane that surrounds the cell and separates its internal environment from the external environment. The plasma membrane is composed of a lipid bilayer and controls the movement of substances in and out of the cell. It also plays a role in cell signaling and communication.
  2. Nucleus: Animal cells contain a nucleus, which is a membrane-bound organelle that houses the cell’s genetic material in the form of chromosomes. The nucleus controls cellular activities by regulating gene expression and contains the instructions for protein synthesis.
  3. Cytoplasm: The cytoplasm is the jelly-like substance that fills the interior of the cell. It contains various organelles, such as mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, and ribosomes. The cytoplasm is involved in many cellular processes, including metabolism, protein synthesis, and transport of molecules.
  4. Mitochondria: Animal cells contain mitochondria, which are responsible for producing energy in the form of ATP through cellular respiration. Mitochondria have their own DNA and can self-replicate. They are often referred to as the “powerhouses” of the cell.
  5. Centrioles: Animal cells have centrioles, which are cylindrical structures involved in cell division. They play a crucial role in organizing the microtubules that make up the cell’s cytoskeleton and are particularly important during the formation of the mitotic spindle during cell division.
  6. Lysosomes: Animal cells contain lysosomes, which are membrane-bound organelles that contain digestive enzymes. Lysosomes are involved in breaking down cellular waste, recycling cellular components, and defending against invading pathogens.
  7. No Cell Wall: Unlike plant cells, animal cells do not have a cell wall. Instead, they have a flexible and dynamic plasma membrane that allows for cellular movement and shape changes.
  8. Specialized Structures: Animal cells can also have specialized structures depending on their function. For example, nerve cells have long extensions called axons and dendrites for transmitting signals, while muscle cells have contractile fibers for movement.

In summary, animal cells have distinct characteristics, including a plasma membrane, nucleus, cytoplasm, mitochondria, centrioles, lysosomes, and specialized structures. These features enable animal cells to carry out various functions, such as energy production, cell division, protein synthesis, and cellular communication.

Parts of the animal cell and their functions

After knowing the most basic things about this type of cells, it is advisable to know the different parts that make them up to better understand their characteristics and functions.


The nucleus of the cell is its control center . In short, it is responsible for dictating the instructions for the correct functioning of many biological processes. It is a very important element since it houses the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that contains the genetic information that will be transmitted when other cells are generated. DNA bound to proteins forms chromatin, which, when condensed at the time of cell division, generates thread-like structures called chromosomes. The nucleus is an organelle since it is located in the cytoplasm. It occupies up to 10 percent of the space inside the cell and is the largest component of the cell.

Cell or plasma membrane

It is a thin layer that surrounds the cytoplasm and separates the cell from its environment . Its main function is to protect the cell from the outside and facilitate the exchange of materials. This membrane has pores or protein channels that connect the interior with the external environment, thanks to which the entry of substances useful for nutrition and the exit of those that are waste occurs. It is a semipermeable membrane. Its composition is characterized by the presence of a double layer of phospholipids with embedded proteins. It also has a fundamental role in other important processes such as cell adhesion and cellular communication that allows the exchange of information with other cells or tissues.

The cell membrane uses four transport methods :

  • Passive osmosis and diffusion.
  • Active transport.

Finally, the cell membrane helps fix the cytoskeleton , so it is vital in maintaining the shape of the cell and allowing it to form part of large arrangements of cells which give shape to tissues.


The cytoskeleton gives the shape and maintains the structure of the cell and is essential in the processes of endocytosis and cell division. In prokaryotic cells, the cytoskeleton is made up of microfilaments and microtubules.


The cytoplasm is all the cellular material with the exception of the nucleus , that is, it includes all the organelles or specialized parts of the cell and the cytosol, a colorless substance with a semi-liquid consistency in which numerous molecules are found and the functions are carried out. some chemical reactions. It is in the cytoplasm where most cellular activities occur, including various metabolic pathways such as glycolysis and processes such as cell division. The cytosol is the part of the cytoplasm that is outside the membrane-bound organelles and is equivalent to approximately 70% of the cell volume.

Organelles of the animal cell and their functions

Within the cytoplasm are the cellular organelles , which are the following structures that we describe in this section.

Endoplasmic reticulum

It is a system of flattened, interconnected canals and sacs wrapped in a membrane. The production, storage and transport of some substances takes place in this organelle. It also provides internal support. Although the endoplasmic reticulum is present in most eukaryotic cells, it is not found in red blood cells or sperm. There are two types of endoplasmic reticulum, smooth and rough. The latter has that appearance because it has ribosomes attached to its surface. However, these ribosomes are not a structural part of the reticulum, since they freely adhere to or detach from the membrane.


Ribosomes are the organelles that synthesize proteins vital for many cellular processes. They are complex molecular machines found in all living cells. Their shape is spherical and they are made up of ribosomal RNA and proteins. These organelles can be found in two forms: free in the cytoplasm or associated with the membranes of the rough endoplasmic reticulum and perform their function of making protein molecules by joining amino acids. However, ribosomes follow the order specified by messenger RNA that transfers the genetic code from nuclear DNA to indicate the order in which amino acids should be linked. Ribosomes have two parts, the smaller subunit that is responsible for reading the RNA and the larger subunit whose function is to put the amino acids together to create a peptide chain.


Mitochondria are the energy producers in the cell. They produce it through the process known as cellular respiration and it is where Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is made, a molecule that constitutes the main source of energy usable by the cell to perform its functions. Mitochondria synthesize ATP from glucose, fatty acids and amino acids. They do not have a defined structure since they are easily deformed but are normally elongated. Apart from energy production, mitochondria are related to the processes of cell communication, cell differentiation and Apoptosis or programmed cell death, but they also have control over the cell cycle and cell growth. The number of mitochondria in a cell varies widely. For example, erythrocytes, or red blood cells, do not contain mitochondria, but liver cells have about 2,000. Mitochondria have several parts:

  • Outer mitochondrial membrane.
  • Inner mitochondrial membrane.
  • Intermembranous space.
  • Golgi apparatus

It is the organelle that receives proteins and lipids from the endoplasmic reticulum and where the compilation of all the substances that the cell expels to the lysosomes or through the plasma membrane takes place. The Golgi apparatus completes the manufacture of some proteins and packages others by covering them with a membrane before being sent to their destination, “labeling” these proteins to send them where they belong both inside and outside the cell. Its main functions are: -Protein modification. -Cellular secretion. -Plasma membrane production. -Formation of lysosomes. As part of traffic management, the Golgi apparatus is essential in the secretion of substances that are expelled from the cell. It has three parts:

  • cis-Golgi region.
  • Region medial.
  • Trans-Golgi Region.
  • Lysosomes

They are spherical vesicles that contain hydrolytic enzymes that facilitate the assimilation of substances by making them smaller. Additionally, they are responsible for eliminating waste by digestion of unwanted substances through the cytoplasm. Lysosomes protect the cell from foreign bodies such as viruses and bacteria and even digest parts of the cell that are discarded as organelles that are replaced. These organelles contain more than 60 different enzymes that come from the Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum and serve to perform their functions of breaking down and digesting biomolecules.


They are organelles that house a large number of enzymes necessary for various metabolic reactions that aim to eliminate peroxides that are toxic to the cell. Its main function is to break down long chain fatty acids. In animal cells, these acids are converted into medium-chain fatty acids before being sent to the mitochondria to be converted into carbon dioxide and water.


It is a pair of coordinated cylindrical structures composed mainly of a protein called tubulin , which are called centrioles. Centrioles intervene in two processes: cell division and locomotion (movement) . They are also related to the organization of the cytoskeleton. The centrosome is only found in the animal cell.

To finish knowing the parts of the animal cell, you can test your knowledge. Below you will find an image of a cell to print and practice identifying the names of the main parts of an animal cell.

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