What are the differences between plant cells and animal cells?

by Kirstin (modified)
(England )

Related page: Cell Structure.

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Plant cell v. animal cell
by: Rufus von Balcone

Dear Kirstin,
Plant and animal cells share some structures such as a cell membrane and a nucleus (which holds the DNA that forms your genes) and they both contain cytoplasm (a sort of cell sap full of dissolved nutrients and other important structures). The obvious difference is that plant cells are surrounded by a cell wall. This gives the cell its strength. The cell wall is made from cellulose (the most abundant organic molecule on the planet) and it is cellulose that provides fibre in your diet; it is indigestible but helps to keep food moving through your digestive tract and provides some resistance to your intestinal muscles giving them exercise and keeping them fit. Plant cells that photosynthesize (make glucose from carbon dioxide and water by harnessing the energy in sunlight) also contain chloroplasts. These are green structures that contain the catalyst chlorophyll (which enables photosynthesis). Plant cells in roots, and other parts that do not receive sunlight, do not contain chloroplasts. Whilst animal cells contain very small water sacks called vacuoles, plant cells usually have one large vacuole that swells with water; inflating the cell like a balloon. When plants are starved of water you see their leaves wilt or droop as they are unable to keep their cells inflated. This is a very simple response to your question but hope it answers more questions than it raises!

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