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Chapter 2 : Cell Properties and Processes

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Cell Properties and Processes, Page 1 of 2

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Abstract:

This chapter focuses on the remarkable similarity of cells, whether the cell is a one-celled organism, such as a bacterium, or a highly specialized cell in a multicellular organism. All cells share certain basic features: they have molecular machinery for duplicating DNA and for breaking down and synthesizing molecules, they reproduce by dividing in two, they use the same molecular building blocks, and they are enclosed by a hydrophobic membrane that separates the cell from its surroundings. All biological phenomena are based on chemical interactions, so understanding the cellular processes described throughout the chapter requires a basic understanding of cell chemistry. Biotechnology is based on the use of living cells and their component parts. Therefore, knowing something about the structure and function of cells and the molecules they contain is essential to understanding biotechnology’s scientific foundations, potential applications, and possible limitations. All living cells carry out a number of essential processes that are the defining traits of life. Cells grow and reproduce, maintain their internal environments, respond to the external environment, and communicate with each other. Cellular processes can be reduced to a series of chemical reactions, most of which are catalyzed by enzymes. To carry out all of these processes, cells require a constant supply of energy. Finally, cells also regulate their processes to ensure they are carried out in an orderly and efficient way.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2

Key Concept Ranking

Chemicals
0.54138464
Lipids
0.52266437
Carbohydrates
0.5025656
Cellular Processes
0.48066717
Amino Acid Synthesis
0.46100855
Unsaturated Fatty Acids
0.42757687
0.54138464
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Figures

Image of Figure 2.1
Figure 2.1

Hooke's drawing of cork cells.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.2
Figure 2.2

Hydrophobic and hydrophilic molecules tend to congregate. (A) Oil, a hydrophobic substance, and water form two separate layers. (B) A hydrophilic substance, like salt, will dissolve in the water but not in the hydrophobic oil. (C) A hydrophobic substance will dissolve in the oil but not in the water.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.3
Figure 2.3

Some molecules have both hydrophobic and hydrophilic parts. (A) The most favorable arrangement for them is to keep the hydrophobic parts in hydrophobic environments and the hydrophilic parts in hydrophilic environments. (B) The molecules spontaneously form a sphere with the hydrophobic parts on the inside. You are looking at a cross section.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.4
Figure 2.4

Three-dimensional structure of a molecule. In this style of representing a molecule, known as a space-filling model, individual atoms are shown as ball-like structures. (Image courtesy of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.5
Figure 2.5

Micrograph of cell showing internal membranes. (Transmission electron micrograph courtesy of Douglas L. Schmucker, University of California — San Francisco.)

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.6
Figure 2.6

A cell membrane is a two-molecule-thick layer with a hydrophobic core and hydrophilic faces. The cell membrane surrounds the cell like the membrane of a balloon. A cross section is shown.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.7
Figure 2.7

A protein embedded in a membrane. The portion of the protein inside the hydrophobic core of the membrane is also hydrophobic, while the external portions are hydrophilic.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.8
Figure 2.8

Examples of small molecules drawn in ball-and- stick style.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.9
Figure 2.9

Skeleton representations of molecules. In representing biological molecules, unlabeled corners are assumed to be carbon atoms bound to hydrogen atoms and are not shown. Note that carbon atoms in a molecule always have four bonds.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.10
Figure 2.10

(A) Fats and oils are composed of a glycerol molecule joined to long-chain fatty acids. (B) The same saturated fatty acid represented in both ball-and-stick and skeleton forms. (C) One molecule of glycerol bonded to three saturated fatty acids. Will this fat be solid or liquid at room temperature?

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.11
Figure 2.11

One saturated and two unsaturated fatty acids.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.12
Figure 2.12

Cholesterol, a sterol lipid, is composed almost entirely of carbon and hydrogen atoms.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.13
Figure 2.13

A phospholipid. Phospholipids are major components of cellular membranes. The charged phosphate group is hydrophilic, while the long fatty acid tails are hydrophobic.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.14
Figure 2.14

Steroid hormones. Note the similarity of the structure of each molecule to cholesterol, which provides the starting material for synthesizing these hormones. Also note the extraordinary similarity between the molecular structures of estrogen and testosterone.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.15
Figure 2.15

Simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose, can combine to make more complex sugars.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.16
Figure 2.16

Plants store glucose as starch by linking glucose molecules together in a long chain.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.17
Figure 2.17

All amino acid molecules have a hydrophilic part that is chemically identical to those of other amino acids, and they can be linked together to form a chain of amino acids. While the chain of amino acids has a hydrophilic backbone, each of the 20 amino acids has a different side chain that can be either hydrophobic (colored) or hydrophilic.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.18
Figure 2.18

A protein is a chain of amino acids that folds into a specific three-dimensional shape. The colored side chains are hydrophilic.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.19
Figure 2.19

A nucleotide, the building block of DNA, is composed of deoxyribose sugar, a phosphate group, and one of four bases.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.20
Figure 2.20

Cell metabolism. The biological molecules in food are broken down for energy and building-block molecules and then reassembled according to the needs of the cell.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.21
Figure 2.21

The cell cycle. (A) Cells go through cyclic periods of growth, DNA replication, and cell division as they reproduce. (B) The relative amounts of time a cell spends in each phase of the cycle. After mitosis (M), followed by cell division, the cell enters a growth phase (G). After the cell reaches a certain size, DNA replicates (S) in preparation for cell division and enters a second growth phase, G.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.22
Figure 2.22

The glucose carrier protein binds to glucose and permits it to pass through the cell membrane. Transport is with the concentration gradient.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.23
Figure 2.23

Photosynthesis. Plants use the energy in sunlight to power the synthesis of glucose from carbon dioxide and water.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.24
Figure 2.24

A molecule of ATP.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.25
Figure 2.25

An enzyme catalyzes one specific chemical reaction, during which molecules fit together precisely.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.26
Figure 2.26

In this cascade of molecular interactions, a growth factor binds to a protein receptor in a cell membrane. The binding changes the shape of the receptor, which in turn leads to other intracelluar changes involving the proteins. Ultimately, the chain reaction leads to protein synthesis as DNA is transcribed to RNA.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.27
Figure 2.27

Cellular processes are carried out by a sequence of enzymes, each of which promotes a specific reaction with a specific substrate, like a robot in an assembly line.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.28
Figure 2.28

Schematic representation of glucose breakdown through glycolysis and, if oxygen is present, the TCA cycle.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.29
Figure 2.29

A branching metabolic pathway in glucose breakdown.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.30
Figure 2.30

Feedback inhibition. When the amino acid isoleucine is plentiful, it blocks its own biosynthesis by inhibiting the first enzyme in the pathway that converts threonine, another amino acid, to isoleucine.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.31
Figure 2.31

Feedback inhibition at metabolic branch points provides more specific control.

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
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References

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1. Alberts, Bruce,, Dennis Bray, et al. 2003. Essential Cell Biology: an Introduction to the Molecular Biology of the CellGarland Publishing, Inc., New York, NY. This excellent textbook explains cell biology, from molecules to cell structure and function, through clear, compelling writing, helpful drawings, and beautiful electron micrographs. A more advanced version of the text by many of the same authors, The Molecular Biology of the Cell, contains many more electron micrographs.
2. American Society for Cell Biology. CBE—Life Sciences Education(http://www.lifescied.org). A free, online quarterly journal, launched in spring 2002 as Cell Biology Education— A Journal of Life Science Education.
3. Cooper, Geoffrey,, and Robert Hausman. 2004. The Cell: a Molecular ApproachAmerican Society for Microbiology, Washington, DC. Another excellent cell biology textbook with beautiful illustrations and thorough explanations. This book also includes a number of sidebars describing some of the scientists who made the most important discoveries in cell biology.
4. DeDuve, Christian. 1984. A Guided Tour of the Living Cell. Scientific American Library. W. H. Freeman and Co., New York, NY. A beautifully illustrated two-volume set by one of the pioneers in modern cell biology. The author, a Nobel laureate, takes readers on a tour of the cell. Another book by DeDuve, Blueprint for a Cell: the Nature and Origin of Life, is more advanced but equally engaging.
5. Goodsell, David. 1996. Our Molecular Nature: the Body's Motors, Machines and Messages. Copernicus, New York, NY. This book, which is essentially a hall of fame of certain molecules, does an excellent job of explaining molecular processes and players in a very compelling way.
6. Thomas, Lewis. 1974. The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher. Viking Press, Inc., New York, NY. Thomas, a physician, is a writer who appeals to scientists and nonscientists alike. This series of essays, and those in another of his books, The Medusa and the Snail, convey the magic most biologists feel when they consider cell function.
7. Varmus, Harold,, and Robert Weinberg. 1993. Genes and the Biology of Cancer.Scientific American Library.W. H. Freeman and Co., New York, NY. An excellent and accessible description of cancer at the cellular and molecular levels.
8. Wilson, John. 2002. Molecular Biology of the Cell: a Problems Approach. Garland Publishing, New York, NY. A companion to the book by Bruce Alberts et al.

Tables

Generic image for table
Table 2.1

Elements and ions

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
Generic image for table
Table 2.2

Chemical symbols for biologically important elements

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2
Generic image for table
Table 2.3

Subunits of biological molecules

Citation: Kreuzer H, Massey A. 2008. Cell Properties and Processes, p 45-71. In Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Guide for Teachers, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816100.ch2

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