AAT Bioquest

Why are there no organisms with huge cells?

Posted December 15, 2023


As cells experience growth, their volume increases at a faster rate than its surface area would. Thus, the inability of the surface area to increase fast enough (if the cell was too big) would not permit the cell to uptake enough nutrients for its metabolic processes. Cells ideally must have a high surface area to volume ratio. It is essential for the plasma membrane to be able to move food and oxygen inside the cell, otherwise it would not survive. Cells benefit when they have a high surface area compared to their volume since there is a larger portion of plasma membrane relative to the interior of the cell. This increases the efficiency of the cells to transport substances into and out of them. Larger cells are typically able to form more nuclei in order to provide the cell with enough proteins and RNA. Some bigger cells in the small intestine may also possess protrusions (e.g. microvilli), causing folds across the membrane. These folds, by increasing the surface area, enhance the cells ability to facilitate the movement of substances into and out of the cell. 

Additional resources

Cell Size and Shape - Advanced

Cell Proliferation Assays

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