Do Plant Cells Have a Cell Membrane?

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  • 0:01 What Is a Cell Membrane?
  • 0:34 Cell Membrane Function
  • 2:01 Controlling Entry and Exit
  • 2:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dominic Corsini
What are cell membranes and what do they do? Do plant cells have them, or do they just contain cell walls? This lesson answers those questions through an investigation into cell membranes, then you can test your knowledge with a short quiz.

What Is a Cell Membrane?

All living things are made from cells. Plant cells are somewhat unique because unlike animal cells, plant cells contain both a cell wall and cell membrane. Animal cells only have the cell membrane. The cell membrane is a semi-permeable covering surrounding the outside of the cell. Plant cell membranes are found on the outside of the cell cytoplasm and just inside the cell wall. So, the answer to the question, 'Do plant cells have a cell membrane?', is 'Yes!'

Cell Membrane Function

Now, what do plant cell membranes actually do? Well, our initial definition said that cell membranes are semi-permeable, and that they surround the cell. This information hints at two primary functions of plant cell membranes. First, the membrane retains the cell's cytoplasm and interior parts, and second, it allows specific substances to pass through it, while prohibiting others from doing so.

The first of these functions is fairly obvious. Just like a water balloon holds water inside, the cell membrane holds all cellular components inside. No big surprise there. The membrane, along with the cell wall beside it, keeps the cell together. So rather than focus on the obvious function, let's look at the second job: controlling entry and exit from the cell. By controlling what gets into and out of the cell, the membrane is functioning as a regulatory structure.

An example of something the plant cell membrane regulates is the release of enzymes. Enzymes are molecules that speed up chemical reactions. One such enzyme belongs to the pitcher plant. These plants are carnivorous and eat insects. The plant cell membrane inside pitcher plants will release enzymes to aid in digestion. Inversely, plant cell membranes can also prevent material from entering the cell. For example, harmful bacteria cannot simply invade the plant cell's interior because the membrane will not allow it to cross.

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