Difference Between Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells

cellular structure and organization

Did you know that prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells differ significantly in their structure and function?

Prokaryotic cells, like bacteria and archaea, lack a nucleus and membrane-bound organelles, while eukaryotic cells, found in plants, animals, fungi, and protists, are more complex and contain a nucleus and various organelles.

Understanding these differences is crucial for comprehending the diversity of living organisms.

In this article, we will explore the distinctions between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, shedding light on their unique characteristics and functions.

Key Takeaways

  • Prokaryotic cells are smaller and simpler than eukaryotic cells.
  • Prokaryotic cells lack membrane-bound organelles, such as a nucleus.
  • Eukaryotic cells have a nucleus surrounded by a nuclear membrane.
  • Prokaryotic cells always reproduce through binary fission, while eukaryotic cells can reproduce both asexually and sexually.


The size of prokaryotic cells is significantly smaller compared to that of eukaryotic cells. Prokaryotic cells range in size from 0.2 μm to 2.0 μm, while eukaryotic cells can be much larger, ranging from 10 μm to 100 μm.

This difference in size is due to the complexity and organization of eukaryotic cells, which contain various organelles and a nucleus surrounded by a nuclear membrane. In contrast, prokaryotic cells lack membrane-bound organelles and have a simpler structure.

The smaller size of prokaryotic cells allows for more efficient nutrient uptake and waste removal. Additionally, the smaller size of prokaryotic cells facilitates cell division through a process called binary fission, in which the cell splits into two identical daughter cells.

Cell Walls

Cell walls are present in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, serving as a protective barrier and providing structural support.

The composition of cell walls differs between prokaryotes and eukaryotes. In prokaryotes, the cell wall is chemically complex and made up of peptidoglycan, a combination of sugars and amino acids. The function of cell walls in prokaryotes is to maintain cell shape, protect against osmotic pressure, and provide resistance to antibiotics. Additionally, cell walls in prokaryotes play a crucial role in cell-to-cell communication and biofilm formation.

While eukaryotic cells also have cell walls, they are chemically simple and made up of cellulose, chitin, or other substances depending on the organism. The function of cell walls in eukaryotes includes providing support and protection, regulating cell growth, and allowing for cell-cell interactions.


How does the presence of a nucleus differ between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells? Well, let's find out!

In prokaryotic cells, there is no nucleus at all. It's like they don't have a control center.

On the other hand, eukaryotic cells have a nucleus, which is like their boss. The nucleus is surrounded by a nuclear membrane, kind of like a protective shield.

Inside the nucleus, there are all sorts of organelles, like mitochondria, chloroplasts, and endoplasmic reticulum. These organelles help the eukaryotic cell do its job and stay alive.


Occasionally, prokaryotic cells reproduce through binary fission. This process involves the division of a prokaryotic cell into two identical daughter cells. Unlike eukaryotic cells, there is no exchange of genetic material during binary fission. This simple and rapid process allows prokaryotic cells to quickly increase their population size.

On the other hand, eukaryotic cells have the ability to reproduce both asexually and sexually. Asexual reproduction in eukaryotic cells occurs through cell division. This process results in the formation of genetically identical daughter cells.

In contrast, sexual reproduction in eukaryotic cells involves the fusion of gametes, which are specialized cells that carry genetic material. During this process, genetic material is exchanged between parent cells, resulting in genetic diversity in the offspring.

Compared to prokaryotic cell reproduction, the reproductive mechanisms of eukaryotic cells are more complex and time-consuming. However, this complexity allows for more genetic diversity and adaptation, as different combinations of genetic material can be created through sexual reproduction.


Multicellular organisms, like plants and animals, are made up of many cells that cooperate to carry out different tasks. This multi/uniceullarity has significant evolutionary importance and ecological impact.

The evolution of multicellularity allowed organisms to specialize and divide labor among different cell types, leading to the development of complex structures and functions. This increased complexity in turn allowed organisms to adapt to different environments and exploit new ecological niches.

Multicellularity also led to the emergence of diverse ecosystems, as interactions between different types of organisms became possible. The ecological impact of multicellularity can be seen in the formation of complex food webs, the regulation of nutrient cycles, and the maintenance of biodiversity.

Genetic Transfer

During genetic transfer, genetic material is transferred between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells through various mechanisms. These mechanisms include horizontal gene transfer and transformation experiments.

Here are five key points to understand about genetic transfer:

  • Horizontal gene transfer: This is the transfer of genetic material between organisms that are not parent and offspring. It can occur through mechanisms such as conjugation, transduction, and transformation.
  • Conjugation: In prokaryotes, genetic material can be transferred through direct cell-to-cell contact via a pilus. This allows for the exchange of plasmids, which are small circular DNA molecules.
  • Transduction: This is the transfer of genetic material through a viral vector. Viruses can infect cells and carry fragments of DNA from one cell to another.
  • Transformation: In this process, prokaryotic cells can take up free DNA from their surroundings and incorporate it into their own genome.
  • Transformation experiments: Scientists can artificially induce transformation in the lab to introduce specific genes into cells for research purposes.

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