20 Difference between Prokaryotic Cells and Eukaryotic Cells (With Table)

What is the difference between prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells? The former are exclusively unicellular cells while the latter are either unicellular or multicellular cells. Cell division in prokaryotic cells is through binary fission and in eukaryotic cells is through mitosis. 

Cell is the basic unit of life for all biotic components. The cell defines the structural and functional unit of all the living organism. Prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells are the main classes of cells with unique characteristics for easy differentiation. 

This article explains the differences and similarities of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. We have also shared the examples of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. By the end of this lesson, the learn should be able to list examples of prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells. 

20 Difference between Prokaryotic Cells and Eukaryotic Cells (With Table)

Difference between Prokaryotic Cells and Eukaryotic Cells With Table

Basic Terms     Prokaryotic Cells Eukaryotic Cells
Genetic Information DNA found in the cytoplasm DNA found in the nucleus
Organelles Lack of nucleus and membrane-bound organelles Have a nucleus and membrane-bound organelles.
Size Tend to be small (0.5-3um) Tend to be large (2-100um)
Cell Division Binary fission Mitosis
Number of Chromosomes One strand Several strands
Type of Cell Single-cell Multicellular
Chloroplast Scattered in cytoplasm Numerous in plants and algae
Lysosomes Absent Present
Mode of reproduction Asexually Sexual
Ribosomes The 70s The 80s
Mitochondria Absent Present
Presence of Nucleus Have no well-defined nucleus Have well-defined nucleus
Cell wall   Comprise of peptidoglycan or mucopeptide Comprise of cellulose only present in plant cells and fungi cells.
Golgi Apparatus Absent Present
Endoplasmic Reticulum Absent Present
Replication Single-origin Multiple origins
Transcription and Translation Occur all together Translation occurs in the cytosol while transcription occurs in the nucleus
Plasma membrane with steroid            Absent Presence
Nuclear membrane permeability Not present Quite selective
Example Bacteria and archaea Plants and animals

What Are Prokaryotic Cells?

Prokaryotic cells are simple, single-celled organisms like bacteria and archaea. Unlike eukaryotic cells, they lack a true nucleus and membrane-bound organelles.

In prokaryotic cells, genetic material (DNA) floats freely in the cell’s main space. This lack of a nucleus means that the cell’s control center isn’t separated from the rest of the cell.

While prokaryotic cells are simpler in structure, they are still highly capable. They carry out essential life functions like growth, reproduction, and responding to their environment. Their small size allows them to thrive in various environments, from extreme heat to freezing cold.

Prokaryotic cells also have a cell wall that provides structure and protection. Some have tiny hair-like structures called flagella for movement, helping them navigate their surroundings.

Prokaryotic cells are the foundation of many life forms on Earth, playing crucial roles in ecosystems, health, and various biological processes.

Here are some of the parts that are quite common in prokaryotic cells. They include:

  • Cytoplasm: These are materials found inside a cell except the nucleus.
  • Cell wall: The structure that surrounds the cell and offers maximum protection
  • Nucleoid: The region where the genetic material of the cell is kept.
  • Flagella and Pili: These are filaments made of proteins and they occur outside the prokaryotic cells.
  • Plasmid: A small molecule of DNA in the cell that reproduces independently.

What Are Eukaryotic Cells?

Eukaryotic cells are the building blocks of complex life forms, including plants, animals, and humans. These cells are more sophisticated than their simpler counterparts, called prokaryotic cells.

Eukaryotic cells have a defined nucleus, which is like the cell’s control center. Inside the nucleus, genetic material (DNA) is neatly packaged. This arrangement helps in controlling cell activities and passing on traits.

Another key feature of eukaryotic cells is their internal structure. They contain various specialized compartments called organelles, each with specific tasks. For example, mitochondria produce energy, while the endoplasmic reticulum helps with protein synthesis and transport.

Eukaryotic cells are larger and more complex than prokaryotic cells, which lack a distinct nucleus and membrane-bound organelles. This complexity allows eukaryotic organisms to perform diverse functions and thrive in various environments.

Some of the common organelles quite common in Eukaryotes include:

  • Nucleus: The region where the genetic material of a cell is stored.
  • Cytoplasm: The part where most cell organelles are located and also where metabolic activities of the cell are taking place.
  • Chloroplast: Quite common in plants and algae. The region where sunlight energy is converted into food.
  • Mitochondria:  Responsible for making ATP
  • Ribosomes: Responsible for protein synthesis
  • Cytoskeleton: Offer maximum support to the cell.

Differences Between Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells

  1. Prokaryotic cells are quite common in single-cell organisms while eukaryotic cells are quite common in multicellular organisms.
  2. Eukaryotic cells are quite modified and large in size while prokaryotic cells are primitive and small in size.
  3. Eukaryotic cells have well-defined organelles such as mitochondria, ribosomes, endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, etc, unlike prokaryotic cells.
  4. Prokaryotic cells have no defined nucleus while eukaryotic cells have a well-defined nucleus.
  5. Cell division in eukaryotic cells occurs through mitosis while in prokaryotic through binary fission.
  6. Genetic materials in eukaryotic cells occur in linear and double-strand whereas in prokaryotic cells it occurs in circular and double-strand.
  7. Eukaryotic cells reproduce sexually while prokaryotic cells reproduction occur asexually.
  8. Prokaryotes are simple cells whereas eukaryotes are complex cells.
  9. Prokaryotic cells have continuous transcription and translation whereas eukaryotic cells experience the process of translation and transcription
  10. Prokaryotic cell regulatory mechanism of DNA is simple whereas eukaryotic cell regulatory mechanisms of DNA are complex
  11. Prokaryotic cell duration is about 20-60 minutes while eukaryotic cell duration highly varies up to 24 hours
  12. Eukaryotic cells have well-developed and advanced communication system whereas prokaryotic cells have an under-developed intracellular and extracellular communication system 
  13. Eukaryotic cell have cytoplasmic movement whereas prokaryotic cell does not have cytoplasmic movement 
  14. Nitrogen-fixing is present in prokaryotic cells and absent in eukaryotic cells 
  15. Photosynthesis takes place in the membrane of the cytoplasm of prokaryotic cells whereas taking place in the chloroplast of eukaryotic cells
  16. Eukaryotic cells experience respiration in the mitochondria whereas prokaryotic respiration experience respiration in the mesosomes
  17. Eukaryotic cells have cytoskeleton whereas prokaryotic cells lack cytoskeleton 
  18. Prokaryotic cells have plasmid whereas eukaryotic cells lack plasmid 
  19. Prokaryotic cells have haploid organism whereas eukaryotic cells have diploid organisms
  20. Eukaryotic cells have well-developed internal membrane whereas prokaryotic cells have a scarce internal membrane 

Similarities between Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells

  1. Both are microscopic and only visible through either a light or electron microscope.
  2. Both experience locomotion and chemotaxis
  3. Both cells have a nucleus
  4. Ribosomes are quite present in all cells
  5. Both have similar cytoplasm composition
  6. Both have cell wall for protection
  7. Both have the ability to reproduce
  8. Both experience photosynthesis 
  9. ATP energy is present in both 
  10. Both have 61 codons 

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A cell is a unit of life and it is responsible for biological activities taking place in a plant or animal. It doesn’t matter whether it is a prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell.

Prokaryotes are primitive cells with undefined nucleus while eukaryotes are modified cells with a well-developed nucleus.

More Sources and References 

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