MCAT Biology

Eukaryotic Cells

MCAT Biology > Cells > Eukaryotic Cells


MCAT Eukaryotic Cells - Eukaryotic Cell

Eukaryotic cells are believed to have evolved about 1.6 - 2.1 billion years ago and are more complex than prokaryotic cells and contain many more organelles. Eukaryotic cells distinctly contain free and membrane bound organelles such as...

A major defining difference between prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells for the MCAT is the presence of the Nucleus in eukaryotic, whereas prokaryotes have a nuclear membrane. The nucleus in a eukaryotic cell allows for the compartmentalization and storage of DNA.

All multi-cellular organisms (humans, fungi, plants) are eukaryotes, however there are some single celled eukaryotic organisms. There are many differences between each type of eukaryotic cell, for example in the plant cell there exists a chloroplast to aid in photosynthesis which is lacking in an animal cell.

Eukaryotic cells also divide differently than prokaryotes. For example, some simple bacteria replicate via asexual replication such as binary fission, however eukaryotic cells must undergo either mitosis (autosomal cells) or meiosis (sex cells).

Click here to see the differences between prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells. The major eukaryotic cells that will be tested on the MCAT are plant and animal cells. Understanding the differences between them are very important and each serve different functions.

Animal vs. Plant Cells

There are two main types of eukaryotic cells, animal and plant cells. While fundamentally they are very similar, there are in fact many key differences that you will need to know for the MCAT exam.

Animal Cells Plant Cells
MCAT Eukaryotic Cells - Animal Cell MCAT Eukaryotic Cells - Plant Cell
Lack cell wall Has cell wall
Lack chloroplasts Has chloroplasts
Smaller vacuoles Has large central vacuole
Can morph shape easily Has rigid structure
Have centrioles Lacks centrioles
Gets energy via consumption Gets energy via photosynthesis


See Fungi

The MCAT will also test you on basic concepts of Fungi. Fungi have a cell wall composed of chitin. All fungi are heterotrophs and many exist as parasites. This means they rely on a host in order to live. Examples of fungi involve yeast and mold. Fungi reproduce asexually or sexually via spores and have both a haploid and diploid life cycle.

Scale of the World

MCAT Eukaryotic Cells - Living World Scale

It is important to understand the scale of the living world from atoms, all the way to the interactions of live animals on Earth. By understanding the interactions between the different levels of science you will be able to build bridges between the concepts and facilitate better learning and understanding. Groups of similar cells organize themselves into tissues. Tissues have the same origin and thus carry out the same function. Eventually, organs are formed from the grouping together of multiple tissues.

Epithelial tissue provides primary immune protection, covers the body and lines cavities. It is involved in absorption, secretion, protection and sensation. Epithelial tissue is derived from the ectoderm and endoderm during growth and development.

MCAT Eukaryotic Cells - Skin Cell

Connective tissue supports the body and provides framework, examples are...

Bone Cell

MCAT Eukaryotic Cells - Bone Cell

Cartilage Cell

MCAT Eukaryotic Cells - Cartilage


MCAT Eukaryotic Cells - Tendons


MCAT Eukaryotic Cells - Ligaments

Adipose Tissue

MCAT Eukaryotic Cells - Adipose Tissue


MCAT Eukaryotic Cells - Blood Cells

Nervous tissue uses an electrochemical gradient to allow cellular signaling and the coordinated control of multiple tissues, organs and organ systems

MCAT Eukaryotic Cells - Muscular-Skeletal System

Muscle tissue is composed of muscle fibers that respond and react to neural stimulation to perform a certain action

Cellular Membrane

See Cellular Membrane

Membrane Transport

See Membrane Transport


See Tonicity

MCAT Eukaryotic Cells - Hyper, Iso and Hypotonic CellsMCAT Eukaryotic Cells - Plant Cells Turgor

Osmosis moves water from an area of lower solute concentration to an area of higher solute concentration (opposite of solute movement). This means that nutrients move from high water to low water concentration, because water will always be even in equilibrium.

MCAT Biology

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