AAT Bioquest

What are the differences between cell membrane and nuclear membrane?

Posted February 10, 2023


The cell membrane and nuclear membrane are both essential biological membranes that occur in eukaryotic cells. There are several differences between these two types of membranes.

Basis of differentiation 

Cell membrane

Nuclear membrane


Refers to a single semi-permeable lipid bilayer membrane that completely encloses the  protoplasm of all cells

Refers to two semi-permeable lipid bilayer membranes that completely enclose the nucleolus and genetic material of the eukaryotic cell


Occurs in prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms

Occurs only in eukaryotic organisms

Number of lipid bilayers

Consists of a single lipid bilayer

Consists of 2 lipid bilayers

Nature of  membrane 

Is a continuous membrane

Is a discontinuous membrane

Presence of pores

Does not have any pores

Has complex pores

Permeability and transportation

Is a semi-permeable membrane 

Is selectively permeable, allowing only small non-polar molecules such as mRNA and proteins to pass through 


Regulates the flow of substances such as ions and organic molecules between the protoplasm and external environment

Regulates the flow of mRNA and proteins between nucleoplasm and cytoplasm

Endoplasmic reticulum 

Endoplasmic reticulum is not found attached to the cell membrane

The outer part of the nuclear membrane is continuous with the endoplasmic reticulum


- Provides the cell with structure and shape

- Helps to hold and protect the content inside the cell

- Is responsible for regulating the flow of materials in and out of the cell 

- Protects the nucleus and genetic material 

- Helps to separate the contents of the nucleus from the cytoplasm

- Is responsible for regulating the flow of materials in and out of the nucleus 


Persists throughout the lifetime of a cell 

Disappears during the cell division in prometaphase and reforms during nuclear division

Additional resources

Nuclear membrane dynamics

Cell Structures and Organelles

iFluor® 488-Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA) Conjugate

Nuclear Blue™ DCS1 *5 mM DMSO Solution*