Prokaryotic Cell vs. Eukaryotic Cell

Last updated on June 23rd, 2021

All living cells can be classified as either prokaryotic or eukaryotic. Bacteria are prokaryotic, while fungi, protozoa, and other organisms are eukaryotic. Eukaryotic cells contain a nucleus with a nuclear membrane enclosing multiple chromosomes, while prokaryotic cells have a single chromosome (nucleoid) that is not enclosed in a nuclear membrane.

A key genetic difference between prokaryotes and eukaryotes is that eukaryotes typically contain two copies of each gene and are thus genetically diploid.

Eukaryotic and Prokaryotic cells
Eukaryotic and Prokaryotic cells (Created with BioRender.com)

Eukaryotic cells also possess a variety of subcellular organelles with specialized functions, such as mitochondria (sites of aerobic respiration) and chloroplasts (sites of photosynthesis in green plants). Prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells differ substantially in many other characteristics, some of which are tabulated here:

FeaturesProkaryotic cellsEukaryotic cells
Size1-2 by 1-4 micrometer or lessGreater than 5 micrometer in width or diameter
Genetic system  
LocationNucleoid, chromatin body or nuclear materialNucleus, mitochondria, chloroplasts
Nuclear membraneAbsentPresent
ChromosomeSingle, closed, circular double-stranded DNA. Multiple, linear chromosomes.
HistonesChromosome does not contain histones.Chromosomes have histones.
SexualityZygote nature is merozygotic (partial diploid)Zygote is diploid
Cytoplasmic nature and Structures   
Cytoplasmic streamingAbsentPresent
PinocytosisAbsentPresent
Gas vacuolesCan be presentAbsent
MesosomePresentAbsent
Ribosomes70S, distributed in the cytoplasm.80S arrayed on membranes as in endoplasmic reticulum; 70S in mitochondria and chloroplasts
MitochondriaAbsentPresent
ChloroplastsAbsentMay be present
Golgi structuresAbsentPresent
Endoplasmic reticulumAbsentPresent
Membrane-bound (true) vacuolesAbsentPresent
Outer Cell Structure   
Cytoplasmic membranesGenerally do not contain sterols; contain part of respiratory and, in some, photosynthetic machinerySterols present; do not carry out respiration and photosynthesis
Cell WallPeptidoglycan (murein or mucopeptide) as componentAbsence of peptidoglycan
Locomotor organellesSimple fibril (flagella)Multifibrilled with “9+2” microtubules
PseudopodiaAbsentPresent in some
Metabolic mechanismsWide variety, particularly that of anaerobic energy yielding reactions; some fix nitrogen gas; some accumulate poly-β-hydroxybutyrate as reserve materialGlycolysis is pathway for anaerobic energy-yielding mechanism
DNA base ratios as moles % of guanine + cytosine (G+C%)28 to 73About 40
Examples Bacteria, blue-green algae. Algae, fungi, protozoa, plants and animals.
About Nisha Rijal 46 Articles
I am working as Microbiologist in National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL), government national reference laboratory under the Department of health services (DoHS), Nepal. Key areas of my work lies in Bacteriology, especially in Antimicrobial resistance.

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