cell body

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noun Biology.
the compact area of a nerve cell that constitutes the nucleus and surrounding cytoplasm, excluding the axons and dendrites.
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Also called perikaryon.

Origin of cell body

First recorded in 1875–80
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a cell body?

The cell body is the compact section of a nerve cell that contains the nucleus and the cytoplasm. It is also known as the soma or the perikaryon.

A nerve cell (or neuron) is one of the cells that make up the nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. Nerve cells send signals in the form of impulses across the body.

The cell body is one part of a nerve cell. The nerve cell also contains the axon, which carries impulses away from the cell, and the dendrites, which carry impulses toward the cell.

The cell body houses the production center of a cell. Inside the cell body is the nucleus, which contains the cell’s DNA and the genetic information on how to make all of the proteins that a cell needs.

The rest of the cell body contains the cytoplasm, a gelatinous substance that surrounds the nucleus. Within the cytoplasm lies all of the other cell organelles you might be familiar with, such as the mitochondria, golgi apparatus, and ribosomes, which make proteins and energy.

Why is cell body important?

The first records of the term cell body come from around 1875. It is made from the word cell, the microscopic structure that is the basic unit of an organism, and the word body, in the sense of “the main mass or the trunk.”

You can think of a nerve cell like a tree. The cell body is the trunk of the tree and houses the organelles that keep the cell alive and productive. The dendrites sprout out of the cell body like the roots of a tree and gather impulses. The impulses travel through the nerve cell and leave the cell body through the axon, which acts as a branch that sends impulses to other nerve cells.

Did you know … ?

While an impulse or signal may pass through the cell body, it is up to the axon and dendrites to actually transport the impulses. Rather than help transport signals, the cell body houses the structures that keep the cell functioning properly.

What are real-life examples of cell body?

Students learn about the cell body when they are taught about neurons and the nervous system.


What other words are related to cell body?

Quiz yourself!

True or False?

The nucleus of a nerve cell is located within the cell body.

How to use cell body in a sentence

Scientific definitions for cell body

cell body

The portion of a neuron that contains the nucleus but does not incorporate the dendrites or axon.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.