Edexcel IGCSE Biology

Revision Notes

2.2.2 Specialised Cells

Cell Differentiation & Specialised Cells

  • The structural differences between different types of cells enables them to perform specific functions within the organism
  • Cell differentiation is an important process by which a cell changes to become specialised
  • As an organism develops, cells differentiate to form different types of cells
  • Almost all of the cells in a multicellular organism will contain the same genetic information (the same genes or alleles), but depending on what role a particular cell needs to have, only some of the genes in a particular cell are used/expressed to control its development
  • When a cell differentiates, it develops a structure and composition of subcellular structures which enables it to carry out a certain function
    • For example, to form a nerve cell the cytoplasm and cell membrane of an undifferentiated cell must elongate to form connections over large distances

Differentiation, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Diagram showing the possible differentiation of a human cell into two different cell types

Differentiation and development

  • As a multicellular organism develops, its cells differentiate to form specialised cells
    • In an animal, most cells differentiate at an early stage of development
    • As a result, animal cells lose their ability to differentiate  early in the life of the organism
  • Specific cells in various locations throughout the body of an animal retain the ability to differentiate throughout the life of the animal
    • These undifferentiated cells are called adult stem cells and they are mainly involved in replacing and repairing cells (such as blood or skin cells)
  • Plants differ from animals in that many types of plant cells retain the ability to fully differentiate throughout the life of a plant, not just in the early stages of development

Specialised cells in animals and plants

  • Specialised cells are those which have developed certain characteristics in order to perform particular functions. These differences are controlled by genes in the nucleus
  • Cells specialise by undergoing differentiation: this is a process by which cells develop the structure and characteristics needed to be able to carry out their functions
  • Some examples of specialised animal and plant cells are shown in the table and images below

Examples of Specialised Cells in Animals Table

Examples of specialised cells in animals table, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Ciliated Cells, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Ciliated epithelial cells

Nerve Cell, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

A nerve cell

Red Blood Cells, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Red blood cells

Sperm Cell, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Sperm cell

Egg Cell, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Egg cell

Examples of Specialised Cells in Plants Table

Examples of specialised cells in plants table, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Root Hair Cell, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Root hair cell

Palisade Mesophyll Cell, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Palisade mesophyll cell

Author: Ruth

Ruth graduated from Sheffield University with a degree in Biology and went on to teach Science in London whilst also completing an MA in innovation in Education. With 10 years of teaching experience across the 3 key science disciplines, Ruth decided to set up a tutoring business to support students in her local area. Ruth has worked with several exam boards and loves to use her experience to produce educational materials which make the mark schemes accessible to all students.
Close

Join Save My Exams

Download all our Revision Notes as PDFs

Try a Free Sample of our revision notes as a printable PDF.

Join Now
Already a member?
Go to Top