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Onion cells - 100X magnification

Cytoplasm is the soup-like mass that comprises the fluid-filled space of cells. It consists of the cytosol (a watery medium, a translucent fluid that also contains proteins), organelles and other inclusions.[1] It makes up about 70% of the cell volume, and is composed primarily of water, salts and a variety of organic molecules and molecular aggregates, such as proteins, RNA, and carbohydrates.[2] It surrounds the nucleus and is the home of the cytoskeleton. In eukaryotes, the cell's organelles reside within this soup, however, in prokaryotes, the cytoplasm is relatively free of organelles.[3]

It servers a variety of functions including breaking down waste products, and moving material around the cell through a process called cytoplasmic streaming. The nucleus often flows with the cytoplasm changing its shape as it moves. The cytoplasm also contains many salts and is therefore an excellent conductor of electricity, creating the perfect environment for the mechanics of the cell. The function of the cytoplasm, and the organelles which reside in it, are critical for a cell's survival.[3]


  1. Bolsover, Stephen R.; Hyams, Jeremy S.; Shephard, Elizabeth A.; White, Hugh A.; Wiedemann, Claudia G (2004). Cell Biology. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. p. 19. ISBN 0-471-26393-1. 
  2. Rana, Fazale (2008). The Cell´s Design: How Chemistry Reveals the Creator´s Artistry. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-8010-6827-0. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 What is a Cell? by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Accessed January 23, 2011.