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Cell Structure and Function

6 April, 2016 - 17:26

Fungi are eukaryotes and as such have a complex cellular organization. As eukaryotes, fungal cells contain a membrane-bound nucleus. A few types of fungi have structures comparable to the plasmids (loops of DNA) seen in bacteria. Fungal cells also contain mitochondria and a complex system of internal membranes, including the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus.

Fungal cells do not have chloroplasts. Although the photosynthetic pigment chlorophyll is absent, many fungi display bright colors, ranging from red to green to black. The poisonous Amanita muscaria (fly agaric) is recognizable by its bright red cap with white patches (Figure 13.21). Pigments in fungi are associated with the cell wall and play a protective role against ultraviolet radiation. Some pigments are toxic.

Figure 13.21 The poisonous Amanita muscaria is native to the temperate and boreal regions of North America. (credit: Christine Majul)

Like plant cells, fungal cells are surrounded by a thick cell wall; however, the rigid layers contain the complex polysaccharides chitin and glucan. Cellulose, the main component of plant cell walls, is found rarely in fungi. Chitin, also found in the exoskeleton of insects, gives structural strength to the cell walls of fungi. The cell wall protects the cell from desiccation and predators. Fungi have plasma membranes similar to other eukaryotes, except that the structure is stabilized by ergosterol, a steroid molecule that functions like the cholesterol found in animal cell membranes. Most members of the kingdom Fungi are nonmotile. Flagella are produced only by the gametes in the primitive division Chytridiomycota.