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Ribosome vs. Centrosome: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 9, 2024
A ribosome is a cellular structure that synthesizes proteins, while a centrosome organizes microtubules and is crucial in cell division.

Key Differences

Ribosomes are small cellular organelles essential for protein synthesis. They read mRNA sequences and assemble amino acids into proteins. Centrosomes, on the other hand, are cellular structures that play a key role in organizing microtubules and are crucial during cell division. Both structures are fundamental to cell function, but their roles and structures are distinctly different.
Structurally, ribosomes are composed of RNA and proteins and can be found floating freely within the cytoplasm or attached to the endoplasmic reticulum. Centrosomes consist of two centrioles surrounded by pericentriolar material and are typically located near the nucleus. While ribosomes are involved in genetic translation, centrosomes are central to the cell's cytoskeleton organization and cell division processes.
In the process of protein synthesis, ribosomes translate genetic information from the mRNA into polypeptide chains, which then fold into functional proteins. The centrosome, conversely, is involved in the regulation of the cell cycle, particularly in mitosis and meiosis, where it helps in the formation of the spindle apparatus. Both are vital for the growth, development, and functioning of cells.
The number of ribosomes in a cell can vary greatly, often reflecting the cell’s protein synthesis activity. Muscle and liver cells, for instance, have numerous ribosomes. The centrosome, typically found as a single per cell, duplicates before cell division. The presence and functionality of ribosomes and centrosomes are indicative of the cell's metabolic and divisional activities, respectively.
Ribosomes are universally present in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, signifying their fundamental role in cellular biology. Centrosomes, however, are found only in animal cells and certain lower plant forms. This difference highlights the specialized function of centrosomes in cell division compared to the more generalized role of ribosomes in protein synthesis.

Comparison Chart


Protein synthesis
Organization of microtubules, cell division


Composed of RNA and proteins
Comprises two centrioles and surrounding material

Location in Cell

Cytoplasm or attached to endoplasmic reticulum
Near the nucleus

Role in Cell

Translates mRNA into proteins
Regulates the cell cycle, especially mitosis

Presence in Cells

Both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells
Mainly in animal cells

Ribosome and Centrosome Definitions


Made up of ribosomal RNA and proteins.
Ribosomes in the cell are essential for protein production.


A cellular structure important in the organization of microtubules.
The centrosome organizes the spindle fibers during cell division.


Can be found free in the cytoplasm or on the endoplasmic reticulum.
Ribosomes on the endoplasmic reticulum help in synthesizing secretory proteins.


Comprises two centrioles surrounded by pericentriolar material.
The centrosome's centrioles play a critical role in mitosis.


Translates genetic information from RNA into polypeptide chains.
The ribosome plays a crucial role in translating genetic code into functional proteins.


Involved in the regulation of the cell cycle.
The centrosome duplicates before a cell enters mitosis.


A cell organelle that synthesizes proteins.
The ribosome reads the mRNA to create a new protein.


Located near the nucleus of animal cells.
The centrosome is strategically positioned to facilitate cell division.


Present in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.
Ribosomes are a key component in every living cell, regardless of its complexity.


Found primarily in animal cells.
The centrosome is a key feature distinguishing animal cells in cell division.


A structure composed of RNA and protein, present in large numbers in the cytoplasm of living cells and serving as the site for assembly of polypeptides encoded by messenger RNA.


A small region of cytoplasm adjacent to the nucleus that contains the centrioles and serves to organize microtubules.


A small organelle found in all cells; involved in the production of proteins by translating messenger RNA.


(cytology) An organelle, near the nucleus in the cytoplasm of most organisms, that controls the organization of its microtubules


An organelle in the cytoplasm of a living cell; ribosomes attach to mRNA and move down it one codon at a time and stop until tRNA brings the required amino acid; when a ribosome reaches a stop codon it falls apart and releases the completed protein molecule for use by the cell;
The ribosome is the site of protein synthesis


A peculiar rounded body lying near the nucleus of a cell. It is regarded as the dynamic element by means of which the machinery of cell division is organized.


Small region of cytoplasm adjacent to the nucleus; contains the centrioles and serves to organize the microtubules


Are ribosomes found in all cells?

Yes, ribosomes are present in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.

Where are ribosomes located in a cell?

Ribosomes are located either freely in the cytoplasm or on the endoplasmic reticulum.

What is the function of a centrosome?

The centrosome helps in organizing the cell's cytoskeleton and in cell division.

Do plant cells have centrosomes?

Plant cells do not have centrosomes as in animal cells; they have similar structures for cell division.

How do ribosomes make proteins?

Ribosomes translate mRNA sequences into polypeptide chains, forming proteins.

What is a ribosome?

A ribosome is a cellular organelle responsible for protein synthesis.

Can ribosomes be seen under a microscope?

Yes, ribosomes can be observed under an electron microscope.

What are centrioles in centrosomes?

Centrioles are cylindrical structures in centrosomes that aid in cell division.

What is a centrosome?

A centrosome is a cell structure that organizes microtubules and assists in cell division.

Are centrosomes present in all animal cells?

Yes, centrosomes are present in most animal cells.

How are centrosomes involved in cancer?

Abnormalities in centrosome function can contribute to uncontrolled cell division seen in cancer.

Can ribosome numbers vary in different cells?

Yes, cells with high protein synthesis have more ribosomes.

How are centrosomes studied?

Centrosomes are studied using techniques like microscopy and molecular biology.

How do centrosomes duplicate?

Centrosomes duplicate during the interphase of the cell cycle.

What's the difference between free and bound ribosomes?

Free ribosomes synthesize proteins used within the cell, while bound ribosomes synthesize proteins for secretion or for use in the cell membrane.

What's the role of ribosomes in genetic diseases?

Malfunctions in ribosome function can lead to various genetic disorders.

What's the size of a typical ribosome?

Ribosomes are about 20-30 nanometers in diameter.

Do antibiotics affect ribosomes?

Some antibiotics target bacterial ribosomes, inhibiting protein synthesis.

Do centrosomes contain DNA?

No, centrosomes do not contain DNA.

What happens to the centrosome during cell division?

The centrosome duplicates and helps form the spindle apparatus for chromosome separation.
About Author
Written 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.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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