Cell Structure and Function: The Molecular Machinery of Life

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Science Objects are two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach. This Science Object is the third of four Science Objects in the Cell Structure and Function SciPack. It explores cells at the molecular level. It is at the molecular level that many of the basic functions of organisms are carried out such as, protein synthesis, extraction of energy from food, and replication. All cells have similar types of complex molecules that are involved in these basic activities of life. These macromolecules include proteins, lipids, carbohydrates and nucleic acids, which interact in a soup, about 2/3 water, surrounded by a membrane that controls what can enter and leave the cell. Proteins act in several ways including enzymes that are responsible for catalyzing chemical actions, receptor molecules in the cell membrane, hormones that travel distances to communicate regulatory processes and structurally as the physical fibers of the cell. The cell’s energy comes from food in the form of sugars or from stored fats (lipids). Lipids are also a critical component in the structure of the cell membrane. The cell membrane in association with carbohydrates and proteins, regulate the flow of water, ions, and other molecules into and out of the cells. Nucleic acids contain instructions for genes that determine structural and chemical processes through protein synthesis.s.

  • Elementary
  • Middle

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Reviews (11)
  • on Fri Apr 03, 2015 9:03 AM

This science object outlines the various molecules that are synthesized in the cells, such as proteins, store energy, such as lipids, or break down to transfer necessary energy to parts of the cell and organs of the body.

Robin Willig  (Rye Brook, NY)
Robin Willig (Rye Brook, NY)

  • on Mon Sep 01, 2014 6:57 PM

I really enjoy Science Objects. In 1-3 hours, the Cell Structure and Function: The Molecular Machinery of Life will help me re-learn, refresh, or learn for the first time some critical science concepts I will have to know to obtain my Science Educator credentials. I appreciate that I can complete them at my own pace, and that, if used as park of a SciPack, I have access to a content expert to go to for help. The NSTA Learning Center Science Objects are really beneficial!

Naomi Beverly  (Marietta, GA)
Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA)

  • on Wed Feb 29, 2012 11:02 PM

This is a whole new level of understanding life within the cell.

Ronaldo Relador  (Bowie, MD)
Ronaldo Relador (Bowie, MD)

  • on Sun Dec 18, 2011 12:19 AM

This resource is a journey into the microscopic world of molecular machines; viewers are introduced to the types of molecules built by cells, including proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, and polysaccharides. This Science Object guides you through the interior world of cells, exploring ways in which molecules work in concert to perform the processes of living.

Lorrie Armfield  (Laurel, MD)
Lorrie Armfield (Laurel, MD)

  • on Fri Oct 21, 2011 10:17 PM

This presentation of the molecular structure and function of cells was outstanding! I have never been exposed to such a simple, yet complete explanation of these processes that take place in the cell.

Duane Little  (Washington, DC)
Duane Little (Washington, DC)

  • on Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:36 PM

A comprehensive review of cells including some biochemistry. Every section provides great information and activities to make sure that you really understand the subject!

Kara  (Kapaa, Hawaii)
Kara (Kapaa, Hawaii)

  • on Fri Aug 12, 2011 12:15 PM

Excellent! content. Easy to read and follow. Very descriptive and language is student friendly.

James Beasley  (Elysian Fields, TX)
James Beasley (Elysian Fields, TX)

  • on Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:31 PM

Biochemistry has been an extremely difficult topic for me to teach with many complex concepts for students to understand. This science object does a great job of explaining the importance and roles of water, the element carbon, and the four biomolecules. It was great review and I learned some ways to try to explain this topic better in my classroom through the language used in the descriptions.


  • on Thu Sep 08, 2016 3:28 PM

The section was well-written so that inexperienced readers can follow along. I myself do not personally like learning about cells because of all the terms. However, this section was easy to follow while also providing solid information to help me learn about cells.

Brian S
Brian S

  • on Sun Sep 22, 2013 9:05 AM

I especially liked the sections on cytoplasm, carbon, and proteins. This review is quick and relevant to the middle school life science teacher. Thanks!

Emily  (Northbrook, IL)
Emily (Northbrook, IL)

  • on Wed Dec 28, 2011 12:36 PM

This series is well organized and explained. It covers enough details for upper level students and not too much for lower level students. Good resource to refresh how you teach the topic. The quiz answer check didn't always work and it wasn't clear which was the right answer for a few answer boxes.

Genevieve Trafelet
Genevieve Trafelet

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