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Figure 2-1

Structure of the cell as seen with the light microscope.

Figure 2-1

Structure of the cell as seen with the light microscope.

proteins are mainly the enzymes of the cell and, in contrast to the fibrillar proteins, are often mobile in the cell fluid. Also, many of them are adherent to membranous structures inside the cell. The enzymes come into direct contact with other substances in the cell fluid and thereby catalyze specific intracellular chemical reactions. For instance, the chemical reactions that split glucose into its component parts and then combine these with oxygen to form carbon dioxide and water while simultaneously providing energy for cellular function are all catalyzed by a series of protein enzymes.

Lipids. Lipids are several types of substances that are grouped together because of their common property of being soluble in fat solvents. Especially important lipids are phospholipids and cholesterol, which together constitute only about 2 per cent of the total cell mass. The significance of phospholipids and cholesterol is that they are mainly insoluble in water and, therefore, are used to form the cell membrane and intracellular membrane barriers that separate the different cell compartments.

In addition to phospholipids and cholesterol, some cells contain large quantities of triglycerides, also called neutral fat. In the fat cells, triglycerides often account for as much as 95 per cent of the cell mass. The fat stored in these cells represents the body's main storehouse of energy-giving nutrients that can later be dissoluted and used to provide energy wherever in the body it is needed.

Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates have little structural function in the cell except as parts of glycoprotein molecules, but they play a major role in nutrition of the cell. Most human cells do not maintain large stores of carbohydrates; the amount usually averages about 1 per cent of their total mass but increases to as much as 3 per cent in muscle cells and, occasionally, 6 per cent in liver cells. However, carbohydrate in the form of dissolved glucose is always present in the surrounding extracellular fluid so that it is readily available to the cell. Also, a small amount of carbohydrate is virtually always stored in the cells in the form of glycogen, which is an insoluble polymer of glucose that can be depolymerized and used rapidly to supply the cells' energy needs.

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