Compare and Contrast: Chloroplasts and Mitochondria

Updated on October 24, 2018
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I have been an online writer for over five years. My articles focus primarily on anatomy and cellular biology.

Chloroplasts visible in Scenedesmus, a green algae.
Chloroplasts visible in Scenedesmus, a green algae. | Source

Chloroplast and Mitochondria are organelles found in the cells of living organisms and perform functions vital for the cell to live. This article will go over the characteristics of these organelles as well as the major differences and similarities of these organelles.

Questions This Article Will Answer

  1. What are their similarities and differences?
  2. What is the structure and function of mitochondria?
  3. Where is the mitochondria located in a cell?
  4. What is the structure and function of chloroplasts?
  5. Where is the chloroplast located in a cell?
  6. What are the main differences between an animal and a plant cell?

1. Similarities and Differences

Like the mitochondria, the chloroplast has an inner and outer membrane. Inside the membranes are its different parts. These include thylakoids and stroma. A stack of thylakoids is called a grana. Chlorophyll molecules on the thylakoids capture sunlight and begin the process of photosynthesis.

Similarities of Mitochondria and Chloroplasts

  • convert energy
  • have its own DNA
  • enclosed by two membranes
  • oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) are involved in its processes
  • both have fluids inside of them

Differences Between Mitochondria and Chloroplasts

Chloroplast
Mitochondria
Plural: chloroplasts
Plural: mitochondria
Usually found in plants and unicellular organisms.
Found in almost all cells.
Converts solar/light energy into chemical energy (sugar).
Converts chemical energy (sugar) into another form of chemical energy (ATP), which is simpler and could be used by the cell.
Process is photosynthesis: composed of Light Reactions and Calvin Benson Cycle.
Process is cellular respiration: composed of Glycolysis, ETC, and Oxidative Phosphorylation.
Has three compartments(parts): thylakoids (traps sunlight), granum (pl: grana; stacks of thylakoids), stroma (fluid inside the outer membrane, which interacts with the cytoplasm. It surrounds the granum and thylakoids.
Has two compartments. Crista (pl:cristae) is the compartment formed by the inner and outer membrane of the mitochondria; it is the layer of folds in the mitochondria and is studded with proteins. The other compartment is called matrix; it is the fluid inside the foldings (cristae).

2. Mitochondria Structure & Function

Known as the powerhouse of the cell, mitochondria are kind of like the digestive system, taking in nutrients and breaking them down to give the cell energy. Mitochondria help take energy from sugar or glucose and convert it into a simpler form called ATP that the cell can more easily use. This process is called cellular respiration, and the mitochondria plays a central role in it.

Mitochondria are composed of two membranes:

  • An outer membrane covers the organelle like skin, protecting it.
  • An inner membrane that is folded over again and again to create a layered structure is called crista, and it is studded with useful proteins. The fluid inside these folds is called the matrix.

Mitochondria
Mitochondria

3. Where Is the Mitochondria Located in a Cell?

Mitochondria are found in nearly all body cells. There are usually multiple mitochondria found in one cell, depending upon the function of that type of cell. Mitochondria are located in the cytoplasm of cells along with other organelles of the cell.

What Is Mitochondrial DNA?

The mitochondrial DNA is located inside the mitochondria, which are cellular organelles within eukaryotic cells that convert chemical energy from food into a form that cells can use. The mitochondrial DNA is passed down directly from the mother and the genes are specific to the mother's lineage.

Why Do We Inherit Mitochondria From Our Mothers?

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is genetic material found in mitochondria. It is passed down from mothers to sons and daughters. Sons cannot pass along their mothers' mtDNA to their children. This happens because mtDNA is transmitted through the female egg.

Why Is Mtdna Only Inherited From the Mother?

In sexual reproduction, mitochondria are normally inherited exclusively from the mother. The mitochondria in mammalian sperm are usually destroyed by the egg cell after fertilization. The fact that mitochondrial DNA is maternally inherited enables researchers to trace maternal lineage far back in time.

4. Chloroplast Function and Structure

Chloroplasts are very similar to mitochondria, but are found only in the cells of plants and some algae. Like mitochondria, chloroplasts produce food for their cells. Chloroplasts help turn sunlight into food that can be used by the cell, a process known as photosynthesis.

Like the mitochondria, the chloroplast has an inner and outer membrane. Inside those membranes are its different parts, which include thylakoids and stroma. A stack of thylakoids is called a grana (pl. granum).

Chlorophyll molecules on the thylakoids capture sunlight and begin the process of photosynthesis. The molecules created by this reaction then move to the stroma, which synthesizes the sugars and “fixes” the CO2.

What Are the Five Parts of the Chloroplast?

Two membranes contain and protect the inner parts of the chloroplast. These membranes are named the outer and inner membranes. The inner membrane surrounds the stroma and the grana (stacks of thylakoids). One thylakoid stack is called a granum.

Parts of the Chloroplast

Parts of Chloroplasts
What It Does
Inner membrane
The inner membrane is less permeable and studded with transport proteins. The innermost matrix of chloroplasts, called the stroma, contains metabolic enzymes and multiple copies of the chloroplast genome.
Outer membrane
The outer membrane provides further protection to the chloroplast.
Stroma
Stroma refers to the colorless fluid surrounding the grana within the chloroplast.
Thylakoids
A thylakoid is a membrane-bound compartment inside chloroplasts and cyanobacteria. They are the site of the light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis.
Granum
Stacked into grana, the shape of the thylakoids allow for optimum surface area, maximizing the amount of photosynthesis that can happen.
Chloroplast
Chloroplast

5. Where Is the Chloroplast Located in a Cell?

The chloroplast is located throughout the cytoplasm of the cells of plant leaves and other parts depending on the type of plant. You can see where the chloroplasts are because chloroplasts they are what make the plant appear green. Therefore, wherever there is green on a plant there are chloroplasts.

Why Does The Chloroplast Appear Green?

Chlorophyll is found in the chloroplasts of plants. Chlorophyll absorbs light in the red (long wavelength) and the blue (short wavelength) regions of the visible light spectrum. Green light is not absorbed but reflected. This makes the plant appear green.

What Is Chlorophyll?

It is a green substance that traps light energy from the sun, which is then combines carbon dioxide and water into sugars in the process of photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is vital for photosynthesis, which allows for plants to get energy from light.

Plant Cell vs. Animal Cell
Plant Cell vs. Animal Cell

6. Differences in Animal and Plant Cells

Structurally, plant and animal cells are very similar because they are both eukaryotic cells. Beyond size, the main structural differences between plant and animal cells lie in a few structures found in plant cells. These structures include: chloroplasts, the cell wall, and vacuoles.

What Is a Cell Wall?

Definition: The cell wall is a rigid layer of polysaccharides lying outside the plasma membrane of the cells of plants, fungi, and bacteria. In the algae and higher plants, it consists mainly of cellulose.

The plant cell wall is composed of cellulose. Cellulose is a structural carbohydrate and is considered a complex sugar because it is used in both protection and structure. The plant cell wall consists of three layers. Each layer has its own unique structure and function.

What Are Vacuoles?

Definition: Vacuoles are a space or vesicle within the cytoplasm of a cell. They are enclosed by a membrane and typically contain fluid.

Function of the Vacuole. A vacuole is usually found in all plant and fungal cells, as well as some cells of protists, animals, and bacteria. These membrane-bound structures are enclosed compartments that are filled with both inorganic and organic molecules, along with water to support the organelle.

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