OCR A Level Biology:复习笔记2.1.9 Prokaryotic & Eukaryotic Cells

Comparison of Prokaryotic & Eukaryotic Cells

  • Animal and plant cells are types of eukaryotic cells, whereas bacteria are a type of prokaryote
  • Prokaryotic cells are much smaller than eukaryotic cells (between 100 - 1000 times smaller)
  • Prokaryotic cells also differ from eukaryotic cells in having:
    • A cytoplasm that lacks membrane-bound organelles
    • Their ribosomes are structurally smaller (70 S) in comparison to those found in eukaryotic cells (80 S)
    • No nucleus (instead they have a single circular DNA molecule that is free in the cytoplasm and is not associated with proteins)
    • A cell wall that contains murein (a glycoprotein)


  • In addition, many prokaryotic cells have a few other structures that differentiate them from others and act as a selective advantage, examples of these are:
    • Plasmids
    • Capsules
    • Flagellum


  • Plasmids are small loops of DNA that are separate from the main circular DNA molecule
    • Plasmids contain genes that can be passed between prokaryotes (e.g. genes for antibiotic resistance)


  • Some prokaryotes (e.g. bacteria) are surrounded by a final outer layer known as a capsule. This is sometimes called the slime capsule
    • It helps to protect bacteria from drying out and from attack by cells of the immune system of the host organism


  • Flagellum (plural = flagella) are long, tail-like structure that rotate, enabling the prokaryote to move (a bit like a propeller)
    • Some prokaryotes have more than one

Structures unique to prokaryotic cells


Prokaryotic cells are often described as being ‘simpler’ than eukaryotic cells, and they are believed to have emerged as the first living organisms on Earth.


  • There are a number of important structural and physiological differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells
    • These differences affect their metabolic processes and how they reproduce


Prokaryotic & Eukaryotic Cells Comparison Table

Exam Tip

You will need to know all the differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Remember - the features in the table above are not present in all prokaryotes so keep this in mind when answering exam questions. Also, size is not a structural feature so if you are asked for a structural difference between a prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell don't include size in your answer.