Cell Wall and Cell Membrane

A cell is the structural and functional working unit of life and also been described as building blocks and fundamental unit of an organism.  The term cell was first identified by an English philosopher Robert Hooke in the year 1665. The shape and size of the cells vary according to their functions and compositions. There are different types of cells and can be differentiated based on the presence and absence of few cell organelles.

Cell Wall

Cell Wall

The cell wall is the outermost covering of plant cells. It is present outside the cell membrane and is tough, flexible and sometimes rigid in its texture. It is mainly composed of cellulose,  long fibers of carbohydrates including hemicellulose, lignin, and pectin.

The main functions of the cell wall

  1. Protecting the cell against physical damage and invading pathogens.
  2. Regulate and controls the direction of cell growth.
  3. Providing the strength, structural support and maintaining the shape of the cell.
  4. Functions as a storage unit by storing carbohydrates for use in plant growth, especially in seeds.
  5. It acts as a selectively permeable membrane by allowing the entry of small molecules to pass through it.

Cell Membrane.

Cell Membrane

The cell membrane which is also known as the plasma membrane. It is the outermost covering of animal cells. It is a semi-permeable membrane composed of lipids and proteins. The main functions of the cell membrane include:

  1. Protecting the integrity of the interior cell.
  2. Providing the support and maintaining the shape of the cell.
  3. Helps in regulating the cell growth through the balance of endocytosis and exocytosis.
  4. The cell membrane also plays an important role in cell signaling and communication.
  5. It acts as a selectively permeable membrane by allowing the entry of only selected substances into the cell.

Difference between Cell Wall and Cell Membrane



Present only in plants, and in some fungi, bacteria, algae. Present in all types of cells, in human, animal, plant, bacterial, etc.
It is the outer non-living part of the cell but not an organelle which encloses cell membrane and provides a fixed shape. It is an outermost, flexible, living organelle of the cell which provides shape to the cell.
It is made up of pectin, chitin, lignin, glycol proteins, glycolipids, sugar, and cellulose. It is a lipid bilayer. And is composed of lipo proteins and carbohydrates.
The structure of the cell wall is 20- 80nm in thickness The structure of the cell membrane is 7.5–10 nm in thickness
It is the thick and rigid structure with the fixed shape. It is thin and delicate structure. It is flexible to change the shape as needed.
It protects the cell from the external environment. It protects and maintains the internal environment of the cell.
The cell wall is elastic. The cell membrane is non-elastic.
The cell wall is metabolically inactive Cell membrane is metabolically active.
Cell wall lack receptors. The cell membrane has receptors to receive signals from external chemicals.
The cell wall grows in thickness over time. Further, it occupies the whole cell in the plant as the cell ages and dies. It is of the same thickness for the whole lifetime of the organism.
The cell wall is semi-permeable. It allows passage of substances with the size of 30-60 kD. The membrane is permeable and controls the movement of the substance into and outside the cell. That is, it can allow water and other substance to pass through selectively.
Functions include protection from the external environment. Functions include permeability, signal reception, motility conduction, cell division, sexual reproduction etc.

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Practise This Question

DIRECTIONS: The following questions have four choices (a), (b), (c) and (d) out of which only one is correct. You have to choose the correct alternative.

Lipids and proteins constituting the cell membrane are synthesized at: