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The basic unit of structure and function in nearly all plants. Although plant cells are variously modified in structure and function, they have many common features. The most distinctive feature of all plant cells is the rigid cell wall, which is absent in animal cells. The range of specialization and the character of association of plant cells is very wide. In the simplest plant forms a single cell constitutes a whole organism and carries out all the life functions. In just slightly more complex forms, cells are associated structurally, but each cell appears to carry out the fundamental life functions, although certain ones may be specialized for participation in reproductive processes. In the most advanced plants, cells are associated in functionally specialized tissues, and associated tissues make up organs such as the leaves, stem, and root. See Cell walls (plant)
Plant and animal cells are composed of the same fundamental constituents—nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and various inorganic substances—and are organized in the same fundamental manner. A characteristic of their organization is the presence of unit membranes composed of phospholipids and associated proteins and in some instances nucleic acids.
Perhaps the most conspicuous and certainly the most studied of the features peculiar to plant cells is the presence of plastids. The plastids are membrane-bound organelles with an inner membrane system. Chlorophylls and other pigments are associated with the inner membrane system. See Cell (biology), Cell plastids, Chlorophyll