Chloroplasts and mitochondria are microscopic structures within living organisms. They are parts within individual cells. Mitochondria -- this term is the plural, the singular is mitochondrion -- are the smaller structures, existing within chloroplast, as well as other types of cell. Chloroplasts and mitochondria share certain similarities of structure, particularly their enclosing membranes.
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A chloroplast is an organelle. This is a subunit within a cell that performs a specific function, which, alongside other subunits, contribute to the healthy functioning of the cell. Chloroplasts are the site of photosynthesis within plants cells. It is within chloroplasts that the plants turns light from the sun, water and nutrients from the soil into the energy the plant needs to survive.
Mitochondria exist within plants cells, often within chloroplasts, as well as in animal cells. They help in generating energy that cells can use, by producing enzymes. As such, they are also involved in cell growth and cell regeneration. The number of mitochondria within a cell can vary greatly in number, from a single mitochondrion to many thousands.
Chloroplasts and mitochondria have similar shapes. Both tend to be elliptical or ovoid in shape. Some chloroplasts assume a flattened ellipsis shape, much like a disk, while some mitochondria appear more circular when magnified.
Both chloroplasts and mitochondria are enclosed within membranes. They each have two membranes, with space between them -- called the inter-membrane space. The outer membrane of each defines the shape of the cell. The inner membrane of a chloroplast mirrors the shape of the outer layer. However, the inner membrane of a mitochondrion is crinkled into folds called cristae, which increase the surface area on which chemical reactions within the cell can take place.
The space inside the membranes of both chloroplasts and mitochondria is called the matrix. Within the matrix, the DNA of the cell is stored, along with ribosomes, which help to create protein. In addition, chloroplasts contain thylakoids, which is the site of photosynthesis. Mitochondria lack these components.
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