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Oudemansiella mucida mushroom spores
Spores from the mushroom Oudemansiella mucida under a microscope

What Are Fungal Cells?

A fungal cell is the basic building block of fungi, the group of organisms that include mushrooms, yeasts, and molds. Fungal cells share some similarities with both animal cells and plant cells, but they also have their own unique features.

Like animal cells and plant cells, fungal cells are eukaryotic cells, meaning they have a nucleus that contains their DNA. However, unlike animal cells and similarly to plant cells, fungal cells have a rigid cell wall made of a substance called chitin. This cell wall provides support and protection for the cell.

The Different Parts of Fungal Cells

Fungal cells have various components, or parts, that carry out specific functions. Here are some of the main parts of a fungal cell:

  • Cell wall: A rigid outer layer made of chitin that gives the cell its shape and provides support and protection.
  • Cell membrane: The thin boundary of the cell, made up of lipids and proteins. It controls the movement of substances in and out of the cell.
  • Cytoplasm: The jelly-like substance that fills the cell and contains various organelles.
  • Nucleus: The control center of the cell that houses the cell's DNA and directs its activities.
  • Ribosomes: Small structures in the cytoplasm that produce proteins.
  • Mitochondria: The energy-producing organelles of the cell that convert nutrients into usable energy.
  • Endoplasmic reticulum: A network of membranes involved in the synthesis and transport of proteins and lipids.
  • Golgi apparatus: A group of flattened sacs that modify, package, and distribute proteins and lipids within the cell.
  • Vacuole: A storage sac that holds water, nutrients, and other molecules.

Top Facts About Fungal Cell for Kids

  • 1. Fungal cell walls are made of the same material that protects insects and some shellfish.

    While plants have cell walls made of cellulose, a type of complex sugar, the cell walls in fungal cells are made of a substance called chitin. Chitin is a tough and flexible material found in the exoskeletons, or hard outer coverings, of insects and crustaceans (like lobsters).

  • 2. Fungal cells are kind of like microscopic stomachs.

    Fungal cells have a unique way of obtaining food. Instead of directly eating their food like animals do, fungal cells secrete special enzymes that break down complex organic matter into smaller molecules. Then, they absorb these smaller molecules through their cell walls, allowing them to extract nutrients and energy from their surroundings.

  • 3. Mycelia, intricate networks of fungal cells, are the high-speed internet of the natural world.

    Fungal cells have the incredible ability to send chemical signals to other neighboring cells, allowing them to coordinate their actions and work together as a group. This communication system helps fungi form intricate networks of branching structures called mycelium.

    This communication allows fungal cells to share nutrients, warn each other about potential dangers, and even collaborate in finding new food sources.