Organelle

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In cell biology, an organelle (pronounced /ɔrɡəˈnɛl/) is a specialized subunit within a cell that has a specific function, and is usually separately enclosed within its own lipid bilayer.

The name organelle comes from the idea that these structures are to cells what an organ is to the body (hence the name organelle, the suffix -elle being a diminutive). Organelles are identified by microscopy, and can also be purified by cell fractionation. There are many types of organelles, particularly in eukaryotic cells. Prokaryotes were once thought not to have organelles, but some examples have now been identified.[1]

Contents

History and terminology

In biology, organs are defined as confined functional units within an organism.[2] The analogy of bodily organs to microscopic cellular substructures is obvious, as from even early works, authors of respective textbooks rarely elaborate on the distinction between the two.

Credited as the first[3][4][5] to use a diminutive of organ (i.e. little organ) for cellular structures was German zoologist Karl August Möbius (1884), who used the term "organula" [6] (plural form of organulum, the diminutive of latin organum). From the context, it is clear that he referred to reproduction related structures of protists. In a footnote, which was published as a correction in the next issue of the journal, he justified his suggestion to call organs of unicellular organisms "organella" since they are only differently formed parts of one cell, in contrast to multicellular organs of multicellular organisms. Thus, the original definition was limited to structures of unicellular organisms.

It would take several years before organulum, or the later term organelle, became accepted and expanded in meaning to include subcellular structures in multicellular organisms. Books around 1900 from Valentin Häcker,[7] Edmund Wilson[8] and Oscar Hertwig[9] still referred to cellular organs. Later, both terms came to be used side by side: Bengt Lidforss wrote 1915 (in German) about "Organs or Organells".[10]

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