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Table 1 A summary of some of the key hallmarks that distinguish archaeal, bacterial and eukaryotic cells. Further details are presented in the text

From: Division of labour in a matrix, rather than phagocytosis or endosymbiosis, as a route for the origin of eukaryotic cells

Property Archaea Bacteria Eukarya
Typical Size (diameter) 0.5-4 μm 0.5-4 μm 1.0-100 μm
Chromosome(s) and mRNA Circular, compact, with polycistronic operons. Circular, compact, with polycistronic operons. Linear chromosomes, genes with introns, long intergenic sequences. Monocistronic transcripts, complex spliceosome, mRNA poly A tail. Nucleolus.
Internal structure No membrane-enveloped organelles. No nucleus. No membrane-enveloped organelles. No nucleus. Membrane-enveloped organelles, mitochondria and nucleus.
Cytoarchitecture simple simple complex
ATP-generation Chemiosmosis across the cell membrane Chemiosmosis across the cell membrane Chemiosmosis across the mitochondrial membrane.
Membrane lipids • Glycerol-ether lipids.
sn-glycerol-1-phosphate backbone.
• Isoprenoid side chains.
• Glycerol-ester lipids.
sn-glycerol-3-phosphate backbone.
• Fatty acid side chains.
• Glycerol-ester lipids.
sn-glycerol-3-phosphate backbone.
• Fatty acid side chains.