In simpler terms, cell differentiation is a phenomenon in which immature, young cells evolve into specialized cells reaching their mature forms and function. For these unicellular entities such as bacteria and others, life processes take place in a single cell. That is to say that phenomena such as metabolism, transportation of molecules, reproduction occur inside a single cell provided they are single-celled. But, in multicellular entities, they necessitate various kinds of cells to carry out dedicated functions.
Various kinds of cells have a role to play in a particular function provided their varied structures. For example, the nerve cells are vital in transmitting signals to various body parts, while blood cells are essential to carry out gaseous exchange and pass oxygen to all body parts.
The variation in the functions and structure between cells indicate that they are specialized cells; capable of conducting different functions given their structure, cells are said to be specialized. This is possible through the process called cell specialization.
Main Factors affecting Cell Differentiation
Factors influencing cell differentiation can be classified into –
Gene structure – this factor is the most important one when the context is cell differentiation. Every viable cell comprises vital instruction determining the type of cell and its physical properties of the host. An error in this genetic content finally affects the process of cell differentiation and development of the host
Environmental factors – different factors such as fluctuation in temperature, supply of oxygen etc. influence the liberation and production of hormones provided the involvement of different proteins in passing information and stimulating hormones. If such molecules are affected, then the process of cell differentiation and development is also affected.
Cell Differentiation – Process and Steps
When a cell can differentiate into any cell type it is totipotent. Totipotent for mammals include the zygote and the products of the initial few cell divisions. There are some kinds of cells that can differentiate into different types of cells. Such cells are stem cells or pluripotent in animals, in plants, they are meristematic cells.
Although these cells can undergo division to produce new differentiated generations, it retains the capability to divide and maintain the population of stem cells making it significant. The phenomenon of cell differentiation begins with the fertilization of the female egg. When the egg is fertilized, multiplication of cells is initiated which leads to the formation of a sphere of cells called blastocysts. In this sphere, cells bind to the uterine wall and continue undergoing differentiation.
Differentiation of blastocysts causes division and specialization forming the zygote attached to the womb to derive nutrition. The differentiation process leads to the formation of various organs with continuous multiplication and growth. After the female eggs are fertilized, cells are formed after division contains identical DNA. DNA in all cells are identical, but different sites of a chromosome code for various functions and types of cells. Only the sites are required to carry out a particular function expressed in each cell.
This was a brief on cell differentiation, factors affecting it and the process behind it. Catch up with phloem parenchyma and related concepts next. Also, consider subscribing to BYJU’S YouTube Channel for more interesting information.