Components of Prokaryotic Cells

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In this illustration, the prokaryotic cell has an oval shape. The circular chromosome is concentrated in a region called the nucleoid. The fluid inside the cell is called the cytoplasm. Ribosomes, depicted as small circles, float in the cytoplasm. The cytoplasm is encased by a plasma membrane, which in turn is encased by a cell wall. A capsule surrounds the cell wall. The bacterium depicted has a flagellum protruding from one narrow end. Pili are small protrusions that project from the capsule in all directions.
This figure shows the generalized structure of a prokaryotic cell. All prokaryotes have chromosomal DNA localized in a nucleoid, ribosomes, a cell membrane, and a cell wall. The other structures shown are present in some, but not all, bacteria.

Source: OpenStax Biology 2e

OpenStax Biology 2e

All cells share four common components: 1) a plasma membrane, an outer covering that separates the cell’s interior from its surrounding environment; 2) cytoplasm, consisting of a jelly-like cytosol within the cell in which there are other cellular components; 3) DNA, the cell’s genetic material; and 4) ribosomes, which synthesize proteins. However, prokaryotes differ from eukaryotic cells in several ways.

A prokaryote is a simple, mostly single-celled (unicellular) organism that lacks a nucleus, or any other membrane-bound organelle. We will shortly come to see that this is significantly different in eukaryotes. Prokaryotic DNA is in the cell’s central part: the nucleoid.

– What is an irregularly shaped region within the cell of a prokaryote that contains all or most of the genetic material?

Most prokaryotes have a peptidoglycan cell wall and many have a polysaccharide capsule. The cell wall acts as an extra layer of protection, helps the cell maintain its shape, and prevents dehydration. The capsule enables the cell to attach to surfaces in its environment. Some prokaryotes have flagella, pili, or fimbriae. Flagella are used for locomotion. Pili exchange genetic material during conjugation, the process by which one bacterium transfers genetic material to another through direct contact. Bacteria use fimbriae to attach to a host cell.

– What is a small, extrachromosomal DNA molecule within a cell that is physically separated from chromosomal DNA and can replicate independently, and are most commonly found as small circular, double-stranded DNA molecules in bacteria?

Magnetotactic bacteria are a diverse group of microorganisms with the ability to orient and migrate along geomagnetic field lines. This unique feat is based on specific intracellular organelles, the magnetosomes, which, in most MTB, comprise nanometer-sized, membrane bound crystals of magnetic iron minerals and organized into chains via a dedicated cytoskeleton. Because of the special properties of the magnetosomes, MTB are of great interest for paleomagnetism, environmental magnetism, biomarkers in rocks, magnetic materials and biomineralization in organisms, and bacterial magnetites have been exploited for a variety of applications in modern biological and medical sciences.


Clark, M., Douglas, M., Choi, J. Biology 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: