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Cells With & Without a Nucleus: Structure & Classification

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  • 0:02 What Are Cells?
  • 0:25 What Is a Nucleus?
  • 1:30 Prokaryotes
  • 2:18 Eukaryotes
  • 3:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dominic Corsini
What are cells? How many general cell types are there? This lesson investigates the main categories of cells and relates each cell type to the presence or absence of a nucleus.

What Are Cells?

What are you made of? Try to think smaller than muscles, bones or organs. What are you made of on the tiniest level? Like all living things, you are made of cells. Cells are the most basic units of life, and it doesn't matter whether you're an animal, plant, fungus, or bacteria. If something is alive, then it's made of cells.

What Is a Nucleus?

Most cells have several things in common. They all contain protein-producing ribosomes, they all have genetic material, and they're all surrounded by a cell membrane. However, only certain cells contain a nucleus. The nucleus is a membrane-bound organelle that contains cellular DNA. Some cells, such as yours, contain a nucleus. Other cells, such as bacteria, do not.

The nucleus-containing cells are called eukaryotic cells. Eukaryote means having membrane-bound organelles. Membrane-bound is merely another way of saying that a membrane surrounds something. Cells that lack a nucleus are called prokaryotic cells and we define these cells as cells that do not have membrane-bound organelles. So, basically what we're saying is that eukaryotes have a nucleus and prokaryotes do not.

However, it isn't just the presence or absence of a nucleus that distinguishes eukaryotes from prokaryotes. For more, let's explore each of these cell types below.

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