Fungal cells are the eukaryotic cells of organisms that belong to the fungal kingdom. Although they share several characteristics with plant and animal cells, there are some important structural differences that distinguish the fungal cell from other types of eukaryotes.

Fungal cells are the eukaryotic cells of organisms that belong to the fungal kingdom
Fungal cells are eukaryotic cells that belong to the fungal kingdom

What is a mushroom cell?

Fungi are organisms of the Mushrooms Kingdom. Some mushrooms (like yeast) are unicellular and others (like mushrooms) are multicellular, but all are made up of fungal cells.

For a long time, fungi were thought to be plant-like organisms because they tended to grow in the soil and in rigid cell walls. However, fungal cells are missing Chlorophyll, A green pigment that is needed for photosynthesis and is almost ubiquitous in plants. In the late 1990s, scientists discovered that around 9 million years later, fungi actually deviated from animals than plants, making them more closely related to animals than plants.

Mushrooms look like plants but do not have chlorophyll
Fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants

Structure of a mushroom cell

Fungal cells are eukaryotic and therefore contain membrane-bound organelles like plant and animal cells. However, there are some important structural differences between fungal cells and other types of eukaryotic cells.

Membrane-bound organelles

Like all eukaryotes, fungal cells contain membrane-bound organelles, including a nucleus, mitochondria, an endoplasmic reticulum, and a Golgi apparatus. They also contain cytoplasm and ribosomes and are surrounded by a plasma membrane.

Cell wall

Like plant cells, fungal cells are surrounded by a rigid cell wall that protects and supports the cell. However, the primary structural material in the fungal cell wall is Chitin, A complex polysaccharide that is also found in the exoskeleton of insects. This is different from the plant cell wall, which contains cellulose.

Fungal cells contain many of the same structures as plant and animal cells
Fungal cells contain membrane-bound organelles

Plasmids

Some types of fungal cells contain plasmids. These are small loops of DNA that are similar to those in bacterial cells.

Pigments

Mushrooms produce a variety of pigments that give these organisms a wide range of vibrant colors. These pigments also protect the mushrooms from UV radiation and oxidative stress. Some fungal pigments are toxic to humans; others have useful uses in a variety of industries.

Types of fungal cells

The two main types of fungal cells are Yeast cells (unicellular mushrooms) and Hyphae cells (the individual cells of multicellular, thread-like fungi).

Hyphae cells

Hyphae are branched, thread-like structures that occur in multicellular, thread-like fungi. A single hypha consists of a long chain of tubular hyphae cells that are connected to one another and separated by so-called inner walls Septa. Hyphae grow from their tips, allowing the filaments to spread and branch into new substrates. The hyphae release digestive enzymes into the substrate, which break it down into nutrients that the fungus can absorb.

Hyphae reproduce asexually using a process called Fragmentation. During fragmentation, small pieces of hyphae can break off and grow to form a new colony of fungal cells.

Hyphae are structures of multicellular, thread-like mushrooms
Hyphae are branched, thread-like structures

Yeast cells

Yeasts are unicellular fungi that reproduce asexually Budding. During this process, the yeast cell nucleus divides through mitosis and a bud forms on the surface of the cell. Eventually the bud loosens and becomes a new, genetically identical daughter cell.

Buds produced Pseudohyphae; elongated, newly formed cells that resemble hyphae. Unlike true hyphae, pseudohyphae are made up of connected but individual yeast cells that can be easily separated from one another. The cells of real hyphae are parts of a multicellular organism and are fused together by septa.

Hyphae and pseudohyphae look similar but are not the same
Yeast buds produce pseudohyphae

Reproduction of fungal cells

Unlike most eukaryotic organisms, fungi usually reproduce asexually. They do this either by budding, by fragmentation, or by producing spores. Spore production is the most common form of asexual reproduction in mushrooms. Spores are produced by mitosis and are genetically identical to the parent organism. They are then released in large numbers and scatter great distances in the wind before they colonize and grow into a new, genetically identical fungus.

Fungi release spores in order to reproduce asexually
Most mushrooms reproduce with asexual spores

Fungal cells vs. plant and animal cells

Fungal cells

Plant cells

Animal cells

Membrane-bound organelles Yes Yes Yes
Plasmids Yes Yes No
Chloroplasts No Yes No
Cell wall Yes Yes No
Polysaccharide found in the cell wall Chitin cellulose N / A

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