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Membranous Organelles vs. Nonmembranous Organelles: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 29, 2023
Membranous organelles are enclosed by lipid membranes, while nonmembranous organelles lack such membranes.

Key Differences

Membranous organelles are structures within cells enclosed by lipid bilayer membranes. On the other hand, nonmembranous organelles are cellular components without such membranes.
Examples of membranous organelles include mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, and Golgi apparatus. While, nonmembranous organelles include ribosomes and centrioles.
Membranous organelles compartmentalize cellular functions. However, nonmembranous organelles often have structural or catalytic roles.
Membranous organelles can isolate substances from the cytosol. On the flip side, nonmembranous organelles are directly exposed to the cytosol.
Membranous organelles include both single and double membrane-bound structures. Conversely, nonmembranous organelles lack any such enclosing structure.

Comparison Chart

Membrane Enclosure

Enclosed by lipid bilayer membranes
Lack lipid membranes


Mitochondria, ER, Golgi apparatus
Ribosomes, centrioles

Function Compartmentalization

Compartmentalize cellular functions
Direct interaction with cytosol


Isolate substances from cytosol
Exposed to cytosol

Membrane Number

Single or double membrane-bound structures
No enclosing structure

Membranous Organelles and Nonmembranous Organelles Definitions

Membranous Organelles

Key players in intracellular signaling and metabolism.
Membranous organelles help maintain the cell's internal environment.

Nonmembranous Organelles

Lack isolation from the cellular environment.
Nonmembranous organelles operate in the immediate cellular context.

Membranous Organelles

Structures in cells enclosed by lipid membranes.
The mitochondria, a membranous organelle, produces cellular energy.

Nonmembranous Organelles

Cellular components lacking lipid bilayer membranes.
Ribosomes, nonmembranous organelles, are involved in protein synthesis.

Membranous Organelles

Compartmentalize and isolate cellular functions.
Membranous organelles like the ER are crucial for protein synthesis.

Nonmembranous Organelles

Include structures like ribosomes and cytoskeleton components.
The cytoskeleton, a nonmembranous organelle, gives the cell its shape.

Membranous Organelles

Include single and double membrane-bound structures.
The Golgi apparatus, a membranous organelle, modifies proteins.

Nonmembranous Organelles

Directly interact with the cytosol.
Nonmembranous organelles are exposed to the cell’s internal fluid.

Membranous Organelles

Involved in diverse cellular processes.
Membranous organelles are essential for cellular homeostasis.

Nonmembranous Organelles

Often have structural or catalytic functions.
Nonmembranous organelles like centrioles are crucial during cell division.


What are nonmembranous organelles?

Nonmembranous organelles are cellular components lacking lipid bilayer membranes.

What are some nonmembranous organelles?

Examples include ribosomes, centrioles, and the cytoskeleton.

How do membranous organelles contribute to cell function?

They compartmentalize and isolate specific cellular functions.

What are membranous organelles?

Membranous organelles are cellular structures enclosed by lipid membranes.

Are nonmembranous organelles exposed to the cytosol?

Yes, they are directly exposed to and interact with the cytosol.

How do membranous organelles contribute to homeostasis?

They help maintain the cell's internal environment and balance.

Do all cells have the same membranous organelles?

Most eukaryotic cells have similar types, but there are variations.

Can you give examples of membranous organelles?

Examples include mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, and lysosomes.

Do nonmembranous organelles participate in cell division?

Yes, structures like centrioles are crucial during cell division.

Can nonmembranous organelles be found in prokaryotic cells?

Yes, structures like ribosomes are present in prokaryotes as well.

What is an example of a single-membrane-bound membranous organelle?

The endoplasmic reticulum is an example of a single-membrane-bound structure.

Can membranous organelles change shape or location?

Yes, some can change shape or move within the cell.

Do membranous organelles isolate substances from the cytosol?

Yes, they can isolate specific substances or processes from the cytosol.

Are membranous organelles involved in intracellular signaling?

Yes, membranous organelles play a key role in intracellular signaling.

How do nonmembranous organelles interact with the cellular environment?

They operate directly in the cellular environment without isolation.

How do membranous organelles affect cellular metabolism?

They play a critical role in various metabolic processes.

Are nonmembranous organelles always static within the cell?

No, some can move or change shape depending on the cell’s needs.

What is the significance of nonmembranous organelles in protein synthesis?

Structures like ribosomes are essential for the synthesis of proteins.

Do nonmembranous organelles have any enclosing structure?

No, they lack any lipid membrane or enclosing structure.

What is the role of nonmembranous organelles?

They often have structural or catalytic roles and interact directly with the cytosol.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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