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The Differences Between Prokaryotic And Eukaryotic Organisms

2171 words - 9 pages

There are three main divisions of living organisms: Prokaryotes, eukaryotes and archaea. This essay will outline the division between the prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms and explore the reasoning behind such differences with regard to general structure, storage of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and its replication, metabolic processes, protein synthesis and ribonucleic acid (RNA) processing.

The cell is the most basic unit of life, defined as “The fundamental ... structural and functional unit of all living organisms” (Oxford University Press, 2008). The prokaryotic cell is typically composed of a plasma membrane and cell wall, containing within it the cytosol and a structure known as the nucleoid. This is a single piece of circular or linear DNA that floats freely in the cytosol of the cell (Thanbichler and Wang et al., 2005, pp. 507). In contrast, eukaryotic organisms typically include (but are not limited to) membrane-bound organelles such as the nucleus, mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum (E.R.), golgi body, lysosome and peroxisome. The main defining difference between a eukaryote and prokaryote is that the latter does not contain a nucleus or any such organelles. Such a definition, however, can be argued to be a poor discriminator between organisms of Eukarya and Prokarya, because it describes only what prokaryotes are lacking, not what they fundamentally ‘are’. This essay aims to detail a more comprehensive definition of why these two kingdoms are so different from each other. A key example of this thinking is that, while prokaryotes are often single responsibly for metabolic processes, reproduction and cell repair, eukaryotes are often highly specialised to perform certain functions and rely upon other cells to fulfil different functions e.g. melanocytes, found in the basal layer of the human epidermis, are specialised cells which produce eumelanin pigments - they are differentiated from other types of cells to perform this function. This arises from the fact that the majority of eukaryotic cells occupy a function within a collaborative tissue or organ (or system), while prokaryotes, and even bacteria that form a multicellular environment, or biofilm, are themselves unicellular and therefore undifferentiated.[9][17]

Both prokaryotes and eukaryotes organise and store their genetic information in the form of deoxyribonucleic acid. Differences arise, however, when examining their methods of DNA storage and its replication. Eukaryotic cells store most of their DNA in a membrane-bound nucleus, with the DNA itself organised into compact chromosomes. The nucleus is composed of an internal nucleolus, in which rRNA production occurs, and the nuclear envelope.[5] The nuclear envelope is a double membrane which is continuous with the rough endoplasmic reticulum (R.E.R.), an organelle involved in the synthesis of proteins. In contrast, the nucleoid of a prokaryotic cell is simply one long circular strand of DNA with some associated proteins...

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