10 Facts On... The Nucleus
Nucleus… even the name suggests some sort of special power or place in the universe.
- The nucleus is a special organelle in the biological world. If you have one, you are a eukaryote, one of the higher life forms on Earth.
- The cell’s genetic material is found in the nucleus. This genetic material is deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).
- Often referred to as the control center of a cell, the nucleus is not only a place to store DNA. It is also a location of great activity as genes are turned on and off to regulate the cell’s metabolism.
- The nucleus consists of a porous lipid membrane surrounding the nucleoplasm, which contains the DNA, associated proteins, and the nucleolus.
- The nucleolus specializes in the synthesis of the ribonucleic acid (RNA) destined to be included in the structure of ribosomes, the complex molecules that translate RNA into proteins outside the nucleus.
- Many proteins can be found on the job in the nucleus. Proteins copy DNA prior to cell division, transcribe it into RNA to later be translated into more proteins, and maintain, repair, and package DNA into the available space.
- Proteins called histones do the job of packaging DNA. You can visualize histones as little disks of just the right size, shape, and amino acid sequence to efficiently wrap up DNA that is not in active use.
- Nuclei are roughly spherical or ovoid. The size of a plant nucleus is related to the size of the cell. Larger cells have larger nuclei in the two to 10 micrometer diameter range.
- The nucleus is itself a dynamic structure. It completely disappears after the DNA is copied right before cell division, only to reassemble itself around the DNA of the resulting daughter cells.
- Biological stains such as Nile blue, methylene blue, and others make the nucleus more visibly distinct under the microscope. Fluorescent nucleic acid stains such as DAPI make nuclei glow when illuminated with ultraviolet light.
Written by Philip McIntosh | Science & Technology Writer, Teacher
Philip McIntosh is a science and technology writer with a bachelor’s degree in botany and chemistry and a master’s degree in biological science. During his graduate research, he used hydroponic techniques to grow axenic plants. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he teaches mathematics.
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