Logo IMG
HOME > My Amsci > Restricted Access

Restricted Access The content you've requested is available without charge only to active Sigma Xi members and American Scientist subscribers.

If you are an active member or an individual subscriber, please log in now in order to access this article.

If you are not a member or individual subscriber, you can:


The names of the two major classes of cells—eukaryotes and prokaryotes—betray certain scientific assumptions about how the two are organized. Eukaryotes include all of the cells of plants and animals and are distinguished from the prokaryotic cells of bacteria by their structural complexity. Specifically, eukaryotic cells contain membrane-bounded compartments in which specific metabolic activities take place. Most important among these is the presence of a nucleus, the membrane-delimited compartment that houses the eukaryotic cell's DNA. It is this nucleus that gives the eukaryote—literally, true nucleus—its name. In contrast the prokaryote cell contains no membrane-delimited compartments and thus its name reflects its status as the proto-eukaryote. Most dangerous about these names is that they allow scientists to make assumptions about the way metabolism is carried out inside each cell type. In stark contrast to the eukaryote, the prokaryote has long been thought of as just a bag of enzymes in which reactions take place almost by random encounters. Our authors argue that this makes no sense. They discuss the way the prokaryote is organized into 'functional compartments' that lack membranous boundaries. Finally, they demonstrate how water itself can help define functional spaces.

Connect With Us:


Subscribe to Free eNewsletters!

Read Past Issues on JSTOR

JSTOR, the online academic archive, contains complete back issues of American Scientist from 1913 (known then as the Sigma Xi Quarterly) through 2005.

The table of contents for each issue is freely available to all users; those with institutional access can read each complete issue.

View the full collection here.

RSS Feed Subscription

Receive notification when new content is posted from the entire website, or choose from the customized feeds available.

Write for American Scientist

Review our submission guidelines.

Subscribe to American Scientist