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Structure of a prokaryotic bacteria cell

Prokaryotes (or monera) are the simplest living things:[1] bacteria and archaea.[2] They generally do not have a cell nucleus, nor cell organelles, however a small number of exceptions have been found. Prokaryotes are unicellular. They are either bacteria or archaea.[3]

Prokaryotes are cells which do not have a cell nucleus, and lack other things eukaryotes (cells with a true nucleus) have. Prokaryotes do not have membranes inside the cell. This means that there are no vacuoles, Golgi apparatus, endoplasmic reticula or other organelles inside the cell. However, they do have ribosomes, though of a simpler kind than eukaryotes. Eukaryote cells include organelles which were once free-living prokaryotes.

In 1977, Carl Woese proposed dividing prokaryotes into the Bacteria and Archaea (originally Eubacteria and Archaebacteria) because of the major differences in the structure and genetics between the two groups of organisms. This arrangement of Eukaryota (also called "Eukarya"), Bacteria, and Archaea is called the three-domain system, replacing the traditional two-empire system.[4]

The Archaea include simple organisms which were first discovered in extreme environments. Most of them can survive at very high or very low temperatures. Some of them can also survive in highly salty, acidic or alkaline water. Some have been found in geysers, black smokers or oil wells.


  1. Excluding viruses
  2. The word 'prokaryote' describes a type of cell. The name comes from Greek pro- (meaning before) and karion, meaning nut or kernel.
  3. Madigan, Michael T. 2010. Brock biology of microorganisms. 13th ed, San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings. ISBN 9780321649638
  4. Woese CR (1994). "There must be a prokaryote somewhere: microbiology's search for itself". Microbiol. Rev. 58 (1): 1–9. PMC 372949 . PMID 8177167 .