Difference between Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes

Key difference: The main difference between prokaryotes and eukaryotes is based on their different size and cell structure.

All living organisms can be divided into two groups based on the fundamental structure of their cells. Accordingly, they can be classified as the prokaryotes and eukaryotes. This article differentiates between the two classes of organisms.

Prokaryotes are organisms made up of cells that lack a cell nucleus or any membrane-encased organelles. This means that they have no nucleus. Also, the genetic material i.e. DNA, in prokaryotes is not bound within a nucleus. The term prokaryote is derived from the Greek word “prokaryote”, which means before nuclei.

Most prokaryotes are made up of just a single cell and are called as unicellular organism. Here, reproduction takes place through binary fission. Also, there are a few prokaryotes which are made of a collection of cells and are called as multi-cellular organisms. The prokaryotes are divided into two groups, they are:

  • Bacteria
  • Archaea

Eukaryotes are organisms made up of cells that possess a membrane-bound nucleus as well as membrane-bound organelles. The term eukaryote is derived from the Greek word “œeukaryoteâ”, which means true or good nuclei. This cell includes all life kingdoms except ‘monera’. Here, the division of cells takes place in two ways:

  • Mitosis - one cell divides to produce two genetically identical cells
  • Meiosis - where sexual reproduction is required.

These organisms hold the genetic material in their cells. The genetic material in eukaryotes is contained within a nucleus in a cell. The DNA of these organisms is structured and is organized into chromosomes. Eukaryotic organisms may be multi-cellular or single-celled organisms. All animals are considered as eukaryotes. They can be further classified as:

  • Plant cells
  • Animal cells

Comparison between Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes:

 

Prokaryotes

Eukaryotes

Definition

These are organisms made up of cells that lack a cell nucleus or any membrane-encased organelles.

These organisms made up of cells that possess a membrane-bound nucleus as well as membrane-bound organelles.

Nucleus

It has no nucleus.

It has a true nucleus, bounded by double membrane.

DNA arrangement

It has a circular loop.

It is linear.

Size

Small cells ( < 5 µm)

Large cells ( < 10 µm)

Cell

Always unicellular

Mostly multi-cellular

Cell wall

Usually present; chemically complex in nature

When present, chemically simple in nature

Protein

It does not contain protein in its DNA.

It contains proteins in the DNA to form chromatin.

Ribosome

It contains small ribosomes.

It contains large ribosomes.

Cytoplasm

No cytoskeleton

Always have cytoskeleton

Cell division

Cell division is by binary fission

Cell division is by mitosis

Reproduction

Reproduction is always asexual

Reproduction is asexual or sexual

Metabolic pathways

Huge variety of metabolic pathways

Common  metabolic pathways

Flagella

Consist of two protein building blocks

It is complex in nature and consist of multiple microtubules

Multi-cellular forms

Rare

Common with extensive tissue formation

Mesosomes

They perform functions of golgi-bodies and mitochondria, and also help in separation of chromosomes.

Not present

Plasma membrane

No carbohydrates and lacks sterols

Sterols and carbohydrates, both are present

Glycocalyx 

Present as a capsule or slime layer

Present in some cells which lack a cell wall

Example

Bacteria and Archaea

 Animal cells and plant cells

Image Courtesy: manwiththemuckrake.com, dedeep.com

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