Why It Matters: Cellular Structure

Why identify and explain a variety of cellular components?

The cell is the basic structural, functional, and biological unit of all known living organisms: all living things are made up of cells (or a single cell, in some cases). However, it's important to remember that cells are simply the smallest unit that can act by themselves. Cells are composed of many different subunits that work in harmony. Each of these different units—membranes, organelles, filaments, etc.—performs a unique function that facilitates life.

Inherited Diseases

When a specific organelle performs incorrectly, it can result in various diseases. For example, the following diseases are linked directly to specific cellular components:

  • Pompe Disease: characterized by excess accumulation of glycogen in muscle cells
  • Leigh Disease: progressive disorder of lesions (dead or dying cells) in the brain
  • Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy: wasting and weakness in muscles of the shoulders, upper arms, and calf muscles


What cellular components could each of these be connected to? Understanding how cellular components work can help you understand health issues related to cellular function.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand why and how the light microscope and electron microscope are used in biology
  • Identify membrane-bound organelles found in eukaryotic cells
  • Demonstrate familiarity with various components of the cytoskeleton, including monomeric units
  • Demonstrate familiarity with various cell surface specializations


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