Do Blood Cells Have a Nucleus?

Instructor: Bridgett Payseur

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

Blood cells have different jobs in the body. In order to perform their jobs well, they have different morphology too. In this lesson we will learn about the nuclei of different blood cells.

What is a Nucleus?

Have you ever heard that all the cells in your body have the same DNA? Surprisingly, they do not. DNA is stored in the nucleus of the cell. It provides instructions for the cell, telling it how to make proteins that give your body its shape and function. Most of the cells in your body have one nucleus, but some cells have more and some have less. Some blood cells get rid of their nuclei (and DNA) to help them work better.

Red Blood Cells

While all blood cells may come from the same bone marrow and flow through the same vessels, they have different functions to perform in the body. A red blood cell's job is to deliver oxygen to all the different cells of the body. To do this they require a protein called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin sticks to the red blood cell and holds onto oxygen so it can be distributed throughout the body. Mature red blood cells eject their nuclei so that there's more room for hemoglobin and oxygen. The cells have a biconcave shape and resemble flat discs with pinched-in centers.

Biconcave shape of a red blood cell
Biconcave shape of a red blood cell

White Blood Cells

White blood cells are separated into different categories according to function. The main purpose of white blood cells is to fight infections in the body. Different types of cells do this in different ways. Some have different nuclei based upon what they do. Some have lobed nuclei, or nuclei that appear to be split into multiple parts. This is believed to help the white blood cell to change shape and squeeze through blood vessels faster to go fight infections in the body. When the white blood cells meet germs they can either engulf and eat them or release proteins to kill them.

The blue dots represent the multi-lobed nucleus of a white blood cell.
Multi-lobed white blood cell.

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