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Protoplasm is the living part of a cell that is surrounded by a plasma membrane.

In some definitions, it is a general term for the cytoplasm (e.g., Mohl, 1846),[1] but for others, it also includes the nucleoplasm (e.g., Strasburger, 1882). For Sharp (1921), "According to the older usage the extra-nuclear portion of the protoplast [the entire cell, excluding the cell wall] was called "protoplasm," but the nucleus also is composed of protoplasm, or living substance in its broader sense. The current consensus is to avoid this ambiguity by employing Strasburger's [(1882)] terms cytoplasm [coined by Kölliker (1863), originally as synonym for protoplasm] and nucleoplasm ([term coined by van Beneden (1875), or] karyoplasm, [used by] Flemming [(1878)])".[2][3][4][5][6] The cytoplasm definition of Strasburger excluded the plastids (Chromatoplasm).

Like the nucleus, whether to include the vacuole in the protoplasm concept is controversial.[7]


Besides "protoplasm", many other related terms and distinctions were used for the cell contents over time .These were as follows:[8][9]


The word "protoplasm" comes from the Greek protos for first, and plasma for thing formed, and was originally used in religious contexts.[36] It was used in 1839 by J. E. Purkinje for the material of the animal embryo.[12][37] Later, in 1846 Hugo von Mohl redefined the term (also named as Primordialschlauch, "primordial utricle") to refer to the "tough, slimy, granular, semi-fluid" substance within plant cells, to distinguish this from the cell wall and the cell sap (Zellsaft) within the vacuole.[13][38][39]Thomas Huxley (1869) later referred to it as the "physical basis of life" and considered that the property of life resulted from the distribution of molecules within this substance.[40] The protoplasm became an "epistemic thing".[41] Its composition, however, was mysterious and there was much controversy over what sort of substance it was.[42]

In 1872, Beale created the vitalist term "bioplasm", to contrast with the materialism of Huxley.[21][43] In 1880, term protoplast was proposed by Hanstein (1880) for the entire cell, excluding the cell wall,[44][45] and some authors like Julius von Sachs (1882) preferred that name instead of cell.[46]

In 1965, Lardy introduced the term "cytosol", later redefined to refer to the liquid inside cells.[35]

By the time Huxley wrote, a long-standing debate was largely settled over the fundamental unit of life: was it the cell or was it protoplasm? By the late 1860s, the debate was largely settled in favor of protoplasm. The cell was a container for protoplasm, the fundamental and universal material substance of life. Huxley's principal contribution was to establish protoplasm as incompatible with a vitalistic theory of life.[47] Attempts to investigate the origin of life through the creation of synthetic "protoplasm" in the laboratory were not successful.[48]

The idea that protoplasm of eukaryotes is simply divisible into a ground substance called "cytoplasm" and a structural body called the cell nucleus reflects the more primitive knowledge of cell structure that preceded the development of electron microscopy, when it seemed that cytoplasm was a homogeneous fluid and the existence of most sub-cellular compartments, or how cells maintain their shape, was unknown.[49] Today, it is known that the cell contents are structurally very complex and contain multiple organelles, the cytoskeleton and biomolecular condensates.


Protoplasm is composed of a mixture of small molecules such as ions, amino acids, monosaccharides and water, and macromolecules such as nucleic acids, proteins, lipids and polysaccharides.[50] In eukaryotes the protoplasm surrounding the cell nucleus is known as the cytoplasm and that inside the nucleus as the nucleoplasm. In prokaryotes the material inside the plasma membrane is the bacterial cytoplasm, while in Gram-negative bacteria the region outside the plasma membrane but inside the outer membrane is the periplasm.

Protoplasm was said to exist in two forms: a liquid-like sol state or a jelly-like gel state.

See also


  1. ^ Cammack, Richard; Teresa Atwood; Attwood, Teresa K.; Campbell, Peter Scott; Parish, Howard I.; Smith, Tony; Vella, Frank; Stirling, John (2006), Oxford dictionary of biochemistry and molecular biology, Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-852917-0
  2. ^ Sharp, L. W. (1921). Introduction To Cytology. New York: McGraw Hill, p. 25.
  3. ^ Strasburger, E. (1882). Ueber den Theilungsvorgang der Zellkerne und das Verhältnis der Kernteilung zur Zellteilung. Arch Mikr Anat, 21: 476-590, BHL.
  4. ^ Beneden, E. van (1875). La maturation de l'oeuf, la fécondation et les premières de développement embryonnaire des Mammiferes d'après les recherches faites chez le lapin. Bull. Acad. Bel. Cl. Sci. 40, 2 sèr.: 686-736, BHL.
  5. ^ Flemming, W. (1878). Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Zelle und ihrer Lebenserscheinungen. Arch. f. mikr. Anat., 16: 302-436, p. 360, BHL.
  6. ^ Battaglia, E. (2009). Caryoneme alternative to chromosome and a new caryological nomenclature. Caryologia, 62(4), 1.
  7. ^ Parker, J. 1972. Protoplasmic resistance to water deficits, p. 125-176. In: Kozlowski, T. T. (ed.), Water deficits and plant growth. Vol. III. Plant responses and control of water balance. Academic Press, New York, p. 144, [1].
  8. ^ Sharp (1921), p. 11, 32-34.
  9. ^ a b c Battaglia, E. (1985). Meiosis and mitosis: a terminological criticism. Annali di Botanica (Rome) 43: 101-140. (Table 3, "-plasma derivatives", p. 118).
  10. ^ Grundriss der Naturphilosophie.
  11. ^ Lehrbuch der Naturphilosophie.
  12. ^ a b Purkinje J.E. 1840. Über die Analogien in den Strukturelementen des thierischen und pflanzichen Organismus. In: Übersicht der Arbeiten und Veränderungen der schlesischen Gesellschaft für vaterländische Kultur, Jahre 1839: 81.
  13. ^ a b c von Mohl, H. 1846. Ueber die Saftbewegung im Inneren der Zellen. Bot. Ztg. 4: 73-78, 89-94.
  14. ^ Dujardin, F. 1835. Recherches sur les organisms inférieurs. Annales des Sciences Naturelles 4: 343-377, [2].
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  21. ^ a b Beale, L. S. (1872). Bioplasm. London: J. & A. Churchill.
  22. ^ Kupffer, K. W. 1875. Ueber Differenzierung des Protoplasmas an den Zellen tierischer Gewebe. Schriften des Naturwissenschaft, Vereins für Schleswig-Holstein, 1 (3), 229-242, link.
  23. ^ Velten, W. 1876. Die physikalische Beschaffenhoit des pflanzlichon Protoplasmas. Sitzber. Akad. Wiss. Wien, Math.-Nat. Kl., 73: I 131-151, [4].
  24. ^ Pfeffer, W. Osmotische Untersuchungen. W. Engelmann, Leipzig. link.
  25. ^ Hanstein (1880), p. 45.
  26. ^ Hanstein (1880), pp. 24, 39.
  27. ^ Flemming, W. (1882). Zellsubstanz, Kern, und Zelltheilung. Vogel, Leipzig, [5].
  28. ^ Bütschli, O. 1892. Untersuchungen über mikroskopische Schäume und das Protoplasma. Leipzig, [6].
  29. ^ Schütt, F. (1895). Die Peridineen der Plankton Expedition. Ergebnisse der Plankton-Expedition des Humbold-Stiftung, Bd IV, p. 1-27, Lipsius & Tischer, Kiel. link.
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  31. ^ Munson, J. P., 1899 The Ovarian Egg of Limulus. Athenaeum Press, Boston, Massachusetts
  32. ^ Bargmann, W. (1956). Über einige Probleme und Ergebnisse des elektronen-mikroskopischen Studiums der Zelle. Dtsch. med. Wschr. 81 (28): 1109-1125.
  33. ^ Szymonowicz, L. (1901). Lehrbuch der Histologie und der mikroskopischen Anatomie. Stuber, Würzburg. link.
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  35. ^ a b Lardy, H. A. 1965. On the direction of pyridine nucleotide oxidation-reduction reactions in gluconeogenesis and lipogenesis. In: Control of energy metabolism, edited by B. Chance, R. Estabrook, and J. R. Williamson. New York: Academic, 1965, p. 245, [7].
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  40. ^ Huxley, T. H. 1869. The Physical Basis of Life. New Haven, Conn., The College Courant.
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  42. ^ Harvey, E. N. (1938), "Some Physical Properties of Protoplasm", Journal of Applied Physics, 9 (2): 68-80, Bibcode:1938JAP.....9...68H, doi:10.1063/1.1710397, archived from the original on 2013-01-12
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  46. ^ Wayne (2009), p. 15.
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  50. ^ Arthur C. Guyton; John E. Hall, Textbook of Medical Physiology, Eleventh Edition, Saunders, Protoplasm is composed mainly of five basic substances: water, electrolytes, proteins, lipids and carbohydrates.

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