- See also List of basic cell biology topics.
(also called cellular biology
or formerly cytology
, from the Greek kytos
, "container") is an academic discipline
that studies cells
– their physiological
properties, their structure, the organelles
they contain, interactions with their environment, their life cycle
. This is done both on a microscopic
biology research emcompasses both the great diversity of single-celled organisms like bacteria
, as well as the many specialized cells in multicellular organisms
Knowing the components of cells and how cells work is fundamental to all biological sciences. Appreciating the similarities and differences between cell types is particularly important to the fields of cell and molecular biology as well as to biomedical fileds such as cancer or developmental biology. These fundamental similarities and differences provide a unifying theme, sometimes allowing the principles learned from studying one cell type to be extrapolated and generalized to other cell types. Hence, research in cell biology is closely related to genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology and developmental biology.
Movement of proteins
Each type of protein
is usually sent to a particular part of the cell. An important part of cell biology is the investigation of molecular mechanisms by which proteins are moved to different places inside cells or secreted from cells.
are synthesized by ribosomes
in the cytoplasm
. This process is also known as protein biosynthesis
or simply protein translation
. Some proteins, such as those to be incorporated in membranes (known as membrane proteins
), are transported into the endoplasmic reticulum
(ER) during synthesis. This process can be followed by transportation and processing in the Golgi apparatus
. From the Golgi, membrane proteins can move to the plasma membrane
, to other subcellular compartments, or they can be secreted from the cell. The ER and Golgi can be thought of as the "membrane protein synthesis compartment" and the "membrane protein processing compartment", respectively. There is a semi-constant flux of proteins through these compartments. ER and Golgi-resident proteins associate with other proteins but remain in their respective compartments. Other proteins "flow" through the ER and Golgi to the plasma membrane. Motor proteins
transport membrane protein-containing vesicles along cytoskeletal
tracks to distant parts of cells such as axon
Some proteins that are made in the cytoplasm contain structural features that target them for transport into mitochondria or the nucleus. Some mitochondrial proteins are made inside mitochondria and are coded for by mitochondrial DNA. In plants, chloroplasts also make some cell proteins.
Extracellular and cell surface proteins destined to be degraded can move back into intracellular compartments upon being incorporated into endocytosed vesicles. Some of these vesicles fuse with lysosomes where the proteins are broken down to their individual amino acids. The degradation of some membrane proteins begins while still at the cell surface when they are cleaved by secretases. Proteins that function in the cytoplasm are often degraded by proteasomes.
Other cellular processes
Internal cellular structures
Techniques used to study cells
Cells may be observed under the microscope
. This includes the Optical Microscope
, Transmission Electron Microscope
, Scanning Electron Microscope
, Fluorescence Microscope
, and by Confocal Microscopy
Several different techniques exist to study cells.
- Cell culture is the basic technique of growing cells in a laboratory independent of an organism.
- Radioactive tracers are used to follow cells as they divide and migrate
- Immunostaining, also known as immunohistochemistry, is a specialized histological method used to localize proteins in cells or tissue slices. Unlike regular histology which uses stains to identify cells, cellular components or protein classes, immunostaining requires the reaction of an antibody directed against the protein of interest with the tissue or cell. Through the use of proper controls and published protocols (need to add reference links here), specificity of the antibody-antigen reaction can be achieved. Once this complex is formed, it is identified via either a "tag" attached directly to the antibody, or added in an additional technical step. Commonly used "tags" include fluorophores or enzymes. In the case of the former, detection of the location of the "immuno-stained" protein occurs via fluorescence microscopy. With an enzymatic tag, such as horse radish peroxidase, a chemical reaciton is carried out that results in a dark color in the location of the protein of interest. This darkened pattern is then detected using light microscopy.
- Gene knockdown mutates a selected gene
- Transfection introduces a new gene into a cell, usually an expression construct
- PCR can be used to determine how many copies of a gene are present in a cell
- In situ hybridization shows which cells are expressing a particular RNA transcript
- DNA microarrays identify changes in transcript levels between different experimental conditions
- Computational genomics is used to find patterns in genomic information
Purification of cells and their parts
Purification may be performed using the following methods:
Notable cell biologists
- Cell and Molecular Biology by Karp 5th Ed.
has learning resources related to this subject:
Online cell biology textbooks