Can a Cell Have More Than One Nucleus?

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  • 0:00 The Nucleus
  • 0:42 Multiple Nuclei in Human Cells
  • 2:16 Multiple Nuclei in Other Cells
  • 2:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bridgett Payseur

Bridgett has a PhD in microbiology and immunology and teaches college biology.

We often think of cells as having specific parts, and often times, they need to adjust their components to do their jobs properly. This lesson will discuss cells that have extra nuclei.

The Nucleus

The nucleus is often called the control center of the cell. It stores DNA, the genetic information that tells a cell how to live its life. The DNA can be considered the blueprint for making everything the cell needs to produce. The nucleus, therefore, is essential to a cell being alive.

In biology class, we often hear that every cell in the human body has one nucleus with identical DNA. But the most important rule in biology is: There is always an exception to the rule. Some human cells have no nuclei at all, like red blood cells. Others, however, such as liver cells and some muscle cells, are multinucleated, meaning they have multiple nuclei.

Multiple Nuclei in Human Cells

Hepatocytes, the cells found your liver, have a lot of jobs. They make proteins for digestion, help remove harmful stuff from your blood during a process called detoxification, produce enzymes to digest fats and carbohydrates, and store carbohydrate energy for the body. Liver cells often have two nuclei so they can more efficiently do all these jobs. Having two nuclei is like having two sets of blueprints, so the cells can build two proteins at the same time.

The muscle cells attached to your skeleton and that help you move your body have multiple nuclei. Skeletal muscle is composed of long, fiber-like cells, which fuse together as they're made. This means that each muscle cell has more than one nucleus because it is really made of several combined cells. In addition, the muscle cells that make up your heart often have two or three nuclei. Although cardiac cells have fewer nuclei than skeletal muscle cells, they are still considered multinucleated.

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