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MCAT Content / Virus Structure / Lack Organelles And Nucleus

Lack organelles and nucleus

Topic: Virus Structure

Viruses do not have organelles or a nucleus.

Viruses are genes wrapped in a protein envelope they do not have a nucleus like common eukaryotes or free coils of DNA like prokaryotes. Viruses do not have any specialized machinery to produce energy, grow, reproduce, or maintain homeostasis by themselves. This is why they take over host cells so they are able to use those specialized organelles to replicate and make new viral particles.

Practice Questions

Khan Academy


MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)


Key Points

• Viruses do not have organelles or a nucleus.

• Viruses rely on their host cells to replicate and make new viral particles.


Key Terms

organelle: specialized subunit within a eukaryotic cell that has a specific function

nucleus: a membrane-bound organelle found in eukaryotic cells containing the majority of the cell’s genetic material

protein envelope: viruses have viral envelopes as their outer layer typically derived from portions of the host cell membranes

gene: sections of genetic material that code for proteins

eukaryotes: contain a nucleus that is enclosed by a plasma membrane.

prokaryotes: organisms whose cells do not contain a distinct nucleus, bounded by a nuclear envelope



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