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Cell Wall vs. Cell Membrane: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
The cell wall is a rigid outer layer providing structure and protection, while the cell membrane is a flexible boundary controlling substance exchange.
Cell Wall vs. Cell Membrane

Key Differences

The cell wall, primarily found in plants, fungi, and bacteria, is made of cellulose, chitin, or peptidoglycan. The cell membrane, present in all cell types, is a phospholipid bilayer with embedded proteins.
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Dec 09, 2023
The cell wall provides structural support and protection, maintaining the cell's shape. The cell membrane regulates the entry and exit of substances, maintaining cellular homeostasis.
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The cell wall is relatively permeable, allowing water, gases, and small molecules to pass through. The cell membrane is selectively permeable, controlling the movement of substances based on size, charge, and solubility.
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The cell wall is rigid and gives cells a fixed shape. In contrast, the cell membrane is flexible, allowing for cell movement and shape change.
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The cell wall is present in plant cells, bacteria, and fungi, but absent in animal cells. The cell membrane is a universal component of all living cells.
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Comparison Chart

Composition

Made of cellulose, chitin, or peptidoglycan
Phospholipid bilayer with embedded proteins
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Function

Provides structural support and protection
Regulates entry and exit of substances
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Permeability

Relatively permeable
Selectively permeable
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Flexibility

Rigid, giving fixed shape
Flexible, allowing shape change
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Presence in Cell Types

In plants, bacteria, fungi; absent in animals
Universal in all living cells
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Cell Wall and Cell Membrane Definitions

Cell Wall

The cell wall is a permeable layer allowing passage of substances.
Water travels through the cell wall during osmosis.
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Cell Membrane

Cell membrane allows communication and interaction with the external environment.
Hormone signals are received by receptors on the cell membrane.
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Cell Wall

The cell wall is a rigid, protective outer layer found in plant, fungal, and bacterial cells.
The cell wall of the plant cell maintains its rectangular shape.
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Cell Membrane

Cell membrane consists of a lipid bilayer with proteins for transport.
Oxygen passes through the cell membrane via diffusion.
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Cell Wall

Cell wall refers to a structure providing mechanical support to cells.
The cell wall in bacteria is essential for preventing cell lysis.
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Cell Membrane

The cell membrane is a flexible, semipermeable barrier surrounding the cell.
The cell membrane controls the nutrients entering the cell.
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Cell Wall

Cell wall is composed of cellulose in plants, chitin in fungi, or peptidoglycan in bacteria.
The strength of the plant's cell wall comes from its cellulose content.
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Cell Membrane

The cell membrane is vital for cellular processes like endocytosis and exocytosis.
The cell membrane envelops food particles during endocytosis.
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Cell Wall

The cell wall is a non-living part that gives shape to plant cells.
The rigid cell wall helps leaves maintain their flat structure.
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Cell Membrane

The cell membrane maintains the cell's internal environment.
The cell membrane keeps the cell's internal conditions stable.
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Cell Wall

Rare spelling of cell wall
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What is a cell membrane?

The cell membrane, or plasma membrane, is a biological membrane that separates the interior of all cells from the outside environment, controlling the movement of substances in and out of cells.
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Do cell walls aid in cell communication?

While they provide structural support, cell walls are not primarily involved in cell communication, which is more a function of the cell membrane.
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Can the cell membrane repair itself?

Yes, the cell membrane has the ability to self-repair if it gets damaged, a property not shared by the cell wall.
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What is the primary function of the cell wall?

The primary function of the cell wall is to provide rigidity, strength, and protection against mechanical stress and osmotic pressure.
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What are cell walls made of?

Cell walls are primarily made of carbohydrates like cellulose in plants, chitin in fungi, and peptidoglycan in bacteria.
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Are cell walls present in animal cells?

No, animal cells do not have cell walls; they only have a cell membrane.
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What is the main role of the cell membrane?

The cell membrane's main role is to regulate the entry and exit of substances, maintaining the cell's internal balance and communication with its environment.
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Is the cell membrane involved in energy production?

Indirectly, yes. The cell membrane's structure and proteins play a key role in cellular processes like respiration and photosynthesis that produce energy.
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What is a cell wall?

The cell wall is a rigid, protective layer outside the cell membrane in plants, fungi, bacteria, and some protists, providing structure and support.
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Can the cell wall help in defense against pathogens?

Yes, the cell wall can act as a barrier to protect against pathogens and physical damage.
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Do all plant cells have cell walls?

Yes, virtually all plant cells have cell walls made of cellulose.
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Do cell walls and cell membranes interact?

Yes, they interact in cells that possess both, with the cell membrane adjacent to the cell wall, and their functions complement each other.
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What is the composition of the cell membrane?

The cell membrane is mainly composed of a lipid bilayer with embedded proteins, cholesterol, and carbohydrates.
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Are cell walls and cell membranes permeable?

Cell walls are generally permeable to water and small molecules, while cell membranes are selectively permeable, allowing specific molecules to pass through.
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Do cell walls aid in cell division?

Yes, in plant cells, the cell wall helps form the new cell wall that separates the two daughter cells during cell division.
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How does the cell membrane contribute to homeostasis?

The cell membrane maintains homeostasis by controlling the substances that enter and leave the cell, thus regulating the internal environment.
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How do cell walls affect cell shape?

Cell walls give cells a defined shape and prevent them from over-expanding when water enters the cell.
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Do cell walls store energy?

No, cell walls do not store energy. They are mainly structural.
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Can the properties of the cell membrane change?

The fluidity and composition of the cell membrane can change in response to environmental conditions like temperature.
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Are cell walls found in prokaryotic cells?

Yes, most prokaryotic cells, like bacteria, have cell walls made of peptidoglycan.
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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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