Organelles: Internal Components of a Cell

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  • 1:16 Nucleus
  • 2:35 Endoplasmic Reticulum
  • 3:38 Mitochondria
  • 4:48 Lysosomes
  • 5:30 Golgi Bodies
  • 6:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The organelles of a cell are much like the organs of your body. In fact, the word organelle means little organ. Learn about important organelles of a human cell, such as the nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria, lysosomes and Golgi bodies.


I'd like you to meet Joe. Joe is a human cell who has been feeling a bit sluggish lately. He has decided to visit the local cell doctor for a checkup. In the examining room, the doctor can see that Joe looks tired and rundown, so he starts a full examination. First, the doctor inspects Joe's outer covering, known as his cell membrane, or plasma membrane, as it is also called. After a few moments of observation the doctor notes that the cell membrane is working properly as it controls the movement of substances into and out of the cell body.

Satisfied that Joe's protective covering is fine, the doctor asks Joe to open up so he can take a look at his organelles. Organelles are the metabolic machines of the cell. It's inside the organelles where most of the activities of the cell take place. This makes them much like the organs of your body; in fact, 'organelles' means 'little organs.' The doctor is convinced that if anything is wrong with Joe, the problem will be found by closely inspecting his organelles, so he gets to work on his internal examination.


A quick scan shows that all of the organelles are suspended in the gel-like cytoplasm as they should be. Because of the doctor's vast experience in dealing with cases like Joe's, he knows that he should start his internal exam with the nucleus. After all, the nucleus is the control center of the cell - what you might think of as the brain of the cell. The nucleus has its own membrane. This membrane has pores that allow the transport of certain materials into and out of the nucleus. For this part of the exam, doc needs to put on his special high-power viewing goggles so he can look inside one of the pores and check out the chromosomes found inside the nucleus.

After a few tweaks to get the goggles focused, the doctor starts to see the threadlike chromosomes come into view. Chromosomes are very important because they contain the genes and genetic material of the cell. Doc knows that someday Joe will want to divide and make his own family of new cells. When that happens, Joe will pass along a copy of this genetic material to his offspring. Joe breathes a bit easier when the doctor tells him that all is well with his nucleus and chromosomes.

Endoplasmic Reticulum

Doc moves on to another of Joe's organelles known as the endoplasmic reticulum, or ER for short. This is a collection of tube-like structures within the cytoplasm. The endoplasmic reticulum acts as a highway transporting substances throughout the cell. Just like a highway you drive on, the endoplasmic reticulum connects different areas. This allows materials to be moved from one part of the cell to the next. The doctor grows a bit concerned when he notices that the surface of some of the ER is nice and smooth, but other surfaces are rough. Much to his relief he soon remembers that there are two types of endoplasmic reticulum: smooth ER and rough ER. The rough ER's surface looks bumpy because it's covered with tiny organelles called ribosomes. Ribosomes can also be found floating around freely in the cytoplasm. They are very small, but they have a big job, which is to make proteins.


So far, doc can't find anything wrong with Joe. Then he recalls that Joe's complaint was that he was feeling sluggish. This makes him think that Joe might be experiencing a power problem. Doc knows exactly which organelle to check, the mitochondria. This is a logical choice because the mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell. It's inside the mitochondria where molecules of ATP are made. ATP is the fuel source for cellular activity.

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