How many atoms are in a cell?

Andrew Ippolito aji97 at acsu.buffalo.edu
Sun Sep 14 20:38:46 EST 1997


Now THAT'S a crazy question, but I'll try to just put this in perspective

for you, because the number you get will mean nothing.  (can you really
see the difference between 10^10 and 10^100?  it's just crazy)
ok, a single cell is made up of a bunch of things - it has an outter
double membrane, a very complex protein 'skeleton', many types and shapes
and sizes of little membraned spheres floating around, the nucleus,
mitochondria, the endoplasmic reticulum, the golgi apparatus, etc. ad
infinitum.  Now, each one of THESE is made of many many proteins and
lipids and carbohydrates.
    A protein is made from a mixture of 20 amino acids, all linked up
together like a string, and then tangled up into a structure.  The
simplest amino acid has 9-12 atoms associated with it, the most complex
about 30.  That's just a single AA.
    Each protein is made from as little as about 9 AA's to thousands and
thousands.
    Each membrane in just ONE of those little speres floating around in
the cell has millions of proteins and lipids (oh, a lipid has hundreds of
atoms).  The inside of the sphere has a few million proteins in it.
    The cell has a few thousand to a few million of the spheres.  The
nucleas a millinos and millions of proteins and lipids.  And the outter
membrane has probably billions of proteins and lipids.
    Sorry to ramble, but the answer to your question is probably on the
order of
10^11 or so atoms.  (that's a quatrillion or something like that:)

Irina Gayevskaya wrote:

> I was wondering, how many ATOMS are there in the simplest unicellular
> organism (excluding bacteria - those that have nucleus)?
>
> Please specify if the number is your guess or from a reliable source
> and state the source
>                                         Thanks, Tom






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