Membrane-Bound Organelles in Eukaryotic Cells

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Derrick Arrington

Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

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Amanda Robb

Amanda has taught high school science for over 10 years. They have a Master's Degree in Cellular and Molecular Physiology from Tufts Medical School and a Master's of Teaching from Simmons College. They also are certified in secondary special education, biology, and physics in Massachusetts.

Eukaryotic cells have several types of organelles working inside them. In this lesson, we will examine the various types of membrane-bound organelles and their functions. Updated: 11/23/2019

Membrane-Bound Organelles in Eukaryotic Cells

Eukaryotic cells contain many membrane-bound organelles. An organelle is an organized and specialized structure within a living cell. The organelles include the nucleus, ribosomes, endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, vacuoles, lysosomes, mitochondria, and, in plants, chloroplasts.

The nucleus is often referred to as the control center of the eukaryotic cell. This is because it contains the information needed to make proteins. Every part of the cell needs proteins to do its job, so by containing the blueprint to make proteins, the nucleus controls the activities of the other organelles.

Ribosomes are cellular organelles that assemble enzymes and other proteins according to the directions found in the DNA code. Structurally, ribosomes consist of two major subunits. The smaller subunit reads mRNA, and the larger subunit assembles amino acids into a peptide chain that will be folded into a protein.

The endoplasmic reticulum is the site of cellular chemical reactions. It is composed of a series of highly-folded membranes. The endoplasmic reticulum basically functions as a large workspace within the cell. It is folded in this manner to save space. The folds in the endoplasmic reticulum are like the folds of an accordion; if it were not folded, it would take up a tremendous amount of space, but the folds allow a lot of surface area for cellular reactions to fit into a small space. If ribosomes are attached to the endoplasmic reticulum, it is referred to as rough endoplasmic reticulum.

The Golgi apparatus is a flattened system of tubular membranes that modifies proteins to perform certain functions. Proteins are transferred to the Golgi apparatus after being assembled in the ribosomes. After the proteins receive any needed modifications, they are sorted in the Golgi and sent to their appropriate destination. In this way, the Golgi serves as a sort of post office for proteins.

Vacuoles are essentially sacs surrounded by a membrane. They are used by cells as temporary storage sites. They often store food, enzymes, and other materials needed by the cell, and some vacuoles store waste products.

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  • 0:01 Membrane-Bound…
  • 0:17 Nucleus and Ribosomes
  • 1:12 Endoplasmic Reticulum…
  • 2:19 Vacuoles and Lysosomes
  • 2:59 Mitochondria and Choloroplasts
  • 4:04 Lesson Summary
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Additional Activities

Candy Cells

In this activity students are going to be applying their knowledge of membrane bound organelles to create a model cell from candy. Give students a choice of multiple types of candy that could be used to represent the organelles, such as small candies, round ones, long ribbon candies, or gummy bears. Allow students to get creative cutting candies into different shapes if possible.


Model making is an important skill in science, engineering and architecture. It allows you to manipulate information that would otherwise be too large or too small to study in the lab. Today, you are going to make a candy model of a eukaryotic cell, including all of the membrane-bound organelles as different types of candy. To get started, brainstorm which type of candy would represent each organelle and list them below:

OrganelleType of Candy
Endoplasmic Reticulum

Next, follow the steps to create your candy cell, then answer the analysis questions.


1. Start by getting a large bowl, a spoon, and a packet of jello.

2. Mix the jello and then pour it in the bowl. Let it set in the fridge.

3. Next, you can start to add your candy organelles to your cell. Consider where each candy should go based on the location of the organelles and how much of each candy your cell should have. Different types of cells have different amounts of each organelle. You can research a specific type of cell, such as a plant cell, a sperm cell, or a heart cell and see what specific combination of organelles are in it.

4. Next, place your candy model back in the fridge and allow everything to set together. Then, you can show off your model and answer the analysis questions.


1. Why did you choose each of the types of candies for the organelles? What characteristics did they have in common?

2. What do you think the limitations of this model are? Are there any ways that this model doesn't act like a real eukaryotic cell and why?

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