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October, 2006
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Organelles: Specific particles of membrane-bound organized living substances present in eukaryotic cells, such as the Mitochondria; the Golgi apparatus; Endoplasmic reticulum; Lysosomes; Plastids; and Vacuoles.

Photosynthesis- Concept

JoVE 10565


Almost all living organisms on Earth depend on photosynthesis, which is the process that converts sunlight energy into a simple sugar called glucose. This molecule can be used as a short-term energy source or to build more complex carbohydrates like starches for long-term energy storage. Autotrophs are organisms that capture light energy using photosynthesis. Also known …

 Lab Bio

What are Membranes?

JoVE 10971

A key characteristic of life is the ability to separate the external environment from the internal space. To do this, cells have evolved semi-permeable membranes that regulate the passage of biological molecules. Additionally, the cell membrane defines a cell’s shape and interactions with the external environment. Eukaryotic cell membranes also serve to compartmentalize the internal space into organelles, including the endomembrane structures of the nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus. Membranes are primarily composed of phospholipids composed of hydrophilic heads and two hydrophobic tails. These phospholipids self-assemble into bilayers, with tails oriented toward the center of the membrane and heads positioned outward. This arrangement allows polar molecules to interact with the heads of the phospholipids both inside and outside of the membrane but prevents them from moving through the hydrophobic core of the membrane. Proteins and carbohydrates contribute to the unique properties of a cell’s membrane. Integral proteins are embedded in the membrane, while peripheral proteins are attached to either the internal or external surface of the membrane. Transmembrane proteins are integral proteins that span the entire cell membrane. Transmembrane receptor proteins are important for communicating messages from the outside to the ins

 Core: Biology


JoVE 10905

Spermatogenesis is the process by which haploid sperm cells are produced in the male testes. It starts with stem cells located close to the outer rim of seminiferous tubules. These spermatogonial stem cells divide asymmetrically to give rise to additional stem cells (meaning that these structures “self-renew”), as well as sperm progenitors, called spermatocytes. Importantly, this method of asymmetric mitotic division maintains a population of spermatogonial stem cells in the male reproductive tract, ensuring that sperm will continue to be produced throughout a man’s lifespan. As spermatogenesis proceeds, spermatocytes embark on meiosis, and each ultimately divides to form four sperm—each with only 23 chromosomes— that are expelled into the male reproductive tract. Interestingly, this is in contrast to oogenesis in women, during which only a single egg is generated for every progenitor cell. At the end of spermatogenesis, sperm demonstrate their characteristic shape: a “head” harboring minimal cytoplasm and a highly condensed nucleus, as well as a motile tail (flagellum). They are small cells, with no organelles such as ribosomes, ER or Golgi, but do have many mitochondria around the flagellum for power. Just below the head is the acrosomal vesicle which contains hydrolytic enzymes to penetrate the egg outer coat—th

 Core: Biology

Cross-bridge Cycle

JoVE 10870

As muscle contracts, the overlap between the thin and thick filaments increases, decreasing the length of the sarcomere—the contractile unit of the muscle—using energy in the form of ATP. At the molecular level, this is a cyclic, multistep process that involves binding and hydrolysis of ATP, and movement of actin by myosin.

When ATP, that is attached to the myosin head, is hydrolyzed to ADP, myosin moves into a high energy state bound to actin, creating a cross-bridge. When ADP is released, the myosin head moves to a low energy state, moving actin toward the center of the sarcomere. Binding of a new ATP molecule dissociates myosin from actin. When this ATP is hydrolyzed, the myosin head will bind to actin, this time on a portion of actin closer to the end of the sarcomere. Regulatory proteins troponin and tropomyosin, along with calcium, work together to control the myosin-actin interaction. When troponin binds to calcium, tropomyosin is moved away from the myosin-binding site on actin, allowing myosin and actin to interact and muscle contraction to occur. As a regulator of muscle contraction, calcium concentration is very closely controlled in muscle fibers. Muscle fibers are in close contact with motor neurons. Action potentials in motor neurons cause the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the vicinity of muscle fibers. This ge

 Core: Biology

Neuron Structure

JoVE 10842

Neurons are the main type of cell in the nervous system that generate and transmit electrochemical signals. They primarily communicate with each other using neurotransmitters at specific junctions called synapses. Neurons come in many shapes that often relate to their function, but most share three main structures: an axon and dendrites that extend out from a cell body.

The neuronal cell body—the soma— houses the nucleus and organelles vital to cellular function. Extending from the cell body are thin structures that are specialized for receiving and sending signals. Dendrites typically receive signals while the axon passes on the signals to other cells, such as other neurons or muscle cells. The point at which a neuron makes a connection to another cell is called a synapse. Neurons receive inputs primarily at postsynaptic terminals, which are frequently located on spines—small bumps protruding from the dendrites. These specialized structures contain receptors for neurotransmitters and other chemical signals. Dendrites are often highly branched, allowing some neurons to receive tens of thousands of inputs. Neurons most commonly receive signals at their dendrites, but they can also have synapses in other areas, such as the cell body. The signal received at the synapses travels down the dendrite to the soma, where the cell can proce

 Core: Biology

What is Glycolysis?

JoVE 10737

Cells make energy by breaking down macromolecules. Cellular respiration is the biochemical process that converts “food energy” (from the chemical bonds of macromolecules) into chemical energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The first step of this tightly regulated and intricate process is glycolysis. The word glycolysis originates from Latin glyco (sugar) and lysis (breakdown). Glycolysis serves two main intracellular functions: generate ATP and intermediate metabolites to feed into other pathways. The glycolytic pathway converts one hexose (six-carbon carbohydrate such as glucose), into two triose molecules (three-carbon carbohydrate) such as pyruvate, and a net of two molecules of ATP (four produced, two consumed) and two molecules of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH). Did you know that glycolysis was the first biochemical pathway discovered? In the mid-1800s, Louis Pasteur determined that microorganisms cause the breakdown of glucose in the absence of oxygen (fermentation). In 1897, Eduard Buchner found that fermentation reactions can still be carried out in cell-free yeast extracts, achieved by breaking open the cell and collecting the cytoplasm which contains the soluble molecules and organelles. Shortly thereafter in 1905, Arthur Harden and William Young discovered that the rate of fermentation decreases wit

 Core: Biology


JoVE 10692

Ribosomes translate genetic information encoded by messenger RNA (mRNA) into proteins. Both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells have ribosomes. Cells that synthesize large quantities of protein—such as secretory cells in the human pancreas—can contain millions of ribosomes.

Ribosomes are composed of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) and proteins. Ribosomes are not surrounded by a membrane (i.e., despite their specific cell function, they are not an organelle). In eukaryotes, rRNA is transcribed from genes in the nucleolus—a part of the nucleus that specializes in ribosome production. Within the nucleolus, rRNA is combined with proteins that are imported from the cytoplasm. The assembly produces two subunits of a ribosome—the large and small subunits. These subunits then leave the nucleus through pores in the nuclear envelope. Each one large and small subunit bind to each other once mRNA binds to a site on the small subunit at the start of the translation process. This step forms a functional ribosome. Ribosomes may assemble in the cytosol—called free ribosomes—or while attached to the outside of the nuclear envelope or endoplasmic reticulum—called bound ribosomes. Generally, free ribosomes synthesize proteins used in the cytoplasm, while bound ribosomes synthesize proteins that are inserted into membranes, packaged into org

 Core: Biology

The Nucleus

JoVE 10691

The nucleus is a membrane-bound organelle that contains a eukaryotic organism’s genetic instructions in the form of chromosomal DNA. This is distinct from the DNA in mitochondria or chloroplasts that carry out functions specific to those organelles. While some cells—such as red blood cells—do not have a nucleus, and others—such as skeletal muscle cells—have multiple nuclei, most eukaryotic cells have a single nucleus. The DNA in the nucleus is wrapped around proteins such as histones, creating a DNA-protein complex called chromatin. When cells are not dividing—that is, when they are in the interphase part of their cell cycle—the chromatin is organized diffusely. This allows easy access to the DNA during the transcription process when messenger RNA (mRNA) is synthesized based on the DNA code. When a eukaryotic cell is about to divide, the chromatin condenses tightly into distinct, linear chromosomes. Humans have 46 chromosomes in total. Chromatin is particularly concentrated in a region of the nucleus called the nucleolus. The nucleolus is important for the production of ribosomes, which translate mRNA into protein. In the nucleolus, ribosomal RNA is synthesized and combined with proteins to create ribosomal subunits, which later form functioning ribosomes in the cytoplasm of the cell. The interior of t

 Core: Biology

Cell Size

JoVE 10688

The size of cells varies widely among and within organisms. For instance, the smallest bacteria are 0.1 micrometers (μm) in diameter—about a thousand times smaller than many eukaryotic cells. Most other bacteria are larger than these tiny ones—between 1-10 μm—but they still tend to be smaller than most eukaryotic cells, which typically range from 10-100 μm.

Larger is not necessarily better when it comes to cells. For instance, cells need to take in nutrients and water through diffusion. The plasma membrane surrounding cells limits the rate at which these materials are exchanged. Smaller cells tend to have a higher surface area to volume ratio than larger cells. That is because changes in volume are not linear to changes in surface area. When a sphere increases in size, the volume grows proportional to the cube of its radius (r3), while its surface area grows proportional to only the square of its radius (r2). Therefore, smaller cells have relatively more surface area compared to their volume than larger cells of the same shape. A larger surface area means more area of the plasma membrane where materials can pass into and out of the cell. Substances also need to travel within cells. Hence the rate of diffusion may limit processes in large cells. Prokaryotes are often small and divide before they face limitat

 Core: Biology
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